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Europe

Syria slams RFI claim that Assad is preparing to quit power

media Russia's ambassador to Paris Alexander Orlov in RFI's studios RFI

Syria has slammed a claim by Russia’s ambassador to Paris that President Bashar al-Assad is ready to leave power as “totally baseless” and accused RFI of distorting his words in an interview posted online.

Assad accepted a transition plan at the Geneva conference on Syria and named a representative to talk to the opposition, Russian ambassador Alexander Orlov told RFI’s Frédéric Rivière on Friday.

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"That is to say, he is accepting to go. But to go in a civilised manner," he said.

"The comments attributed to the Russian ambassador to Paris on the fact that President Assad would agree to relinquish power in a civilised manner are totally baseless," Syrian state television responded later in the day.

The comments “were distorted and the Russian ambassador did not at all
say what was attributed to him," it claimed, criticising the "bloodthirsty media".

Orlov defended Russia’s veto on a UN Security Council resolution proposing more sanctions against Damascus and denied that it did so out of economic self-interest.

“We have no special links with the Assad regime or the Syrian president,” he said and insisted that Moscow was standing by the principle of territorial integrity in opposing further foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict.

Russia believes it was “tricked” into voting for the UN resolution on Libya that led to Western intervention in support of rebels who toppled Moamer Kadhafi, he added.

But he conceded that Russia is worried that Islamist violence could worsen the situation in the Caucasus, where it has fought a long war against Chechen and other separatists.

That is a concern for France and the West, he said, pointing to the killing spree by Mohamed Merah during the French presidential election campaign.

View the interview on RFI's website in French.

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