Middle East

Lavrov: West realizing Assad less of a threat than Islamists

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov makes a speech to the upper house of parliament in Moscow December 18, 2013.REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW/BEIRUT: Western diplomats are increasingly saying that President Bashar al-Assad keeping power is a better option for Syria than the country being ruled by Islamist militants, Russia's foreign minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

"Not only in private meetings but also in public comments, the idea is occurring to some Western colleagues that ... Assad remaining in office is less of a threat for Syria than a takeover of the country by terrorists," Sergei Lavrov told RIA news agency in an interview published on Friday.

He said Assad had not asked Russia to ensure his safety in case he left his presidential post, the agency reported.

“Assad reiterated on several occasions that he is not planning to leave his country. He is staying with his people and will carry out his duties,” the Russian PM said.

Lavrov added that Assad might seek reelection and that the “decision whether he [Assad] will run for president will be made closer to the election date, depending on the extent of his people’s support.”

Russia has been Assad's most important supporter during Syria's civil war. It says his removal from power must not be a precondition for holding peace talks. - With The Daily Star





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