published Friday, July 20th, 2012

Russian envoy to France: Assad ready to step down

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, answers questions during his and Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalam, unseen, news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 28, 2012. Russia is denying comments by a U.S. official that it has endorsed a Syrian transition plan that includes a call for President Bashar Assad to give up power in favor of a national unity government saying that outside forces must concentrate on convincing opposition groups to soften their demands. But, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied that Thursday. "We are not supporting and will not support any external meddling,” he said. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, answers questions during his and Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalam, unseen, news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 28, 2012. Russia is denying comments by a U.S. official that it has endorsed a Syrian transition plan that includes a call for President Bashar Assad to give up power in favor of a national unity government saying that outside forces must concentrate on convincing opposition groups to soften their demands. But, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied that Thursday. "We are not supporting and will not support any external meddling,” he said. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PARIS (AP) — Russia's ambassador to France says Moscow believes Syria's president is ready to step down "in a civilized way." But the Syrian government immediately denied it.

Alexandre Orlov told RFI on Friday that "personally ... I think it will be difficult for him to stay in office given everything that's happened."

He noted that Assad accepted the final statement of the June 30 Geneva agreement for a transition "toward a more democratic regime" and in essence this meant that "he accepted to leave, but leave in a civilized way."

Orlov's statement came after Russia and China blocked a Security Council vote to turn up pressure on Assad and after an attack killed three top Syrian defense officials.

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