Rebel fighters dig and fill sandbags to make barricades from behind a sniper curtain to protect them from government forces sniper fire in the southern Syrian city of Daraa on November 11, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMAD ABD ABAZID
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Opposition figures and Gulf commentators dismissed Wednesday a Russian draft proposal for a process to solve the Syrian crisis, saying Moscow's aim was to keep President Bashar Assad in power and marginalize dissenting voices.Separately, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said that if Assad's departure were not completed peacefully, it would be achieved militarily, although he did not address the Russian proposal. Russia, which with Iran has been Assad's top ally during Syria's nearly five-year conflict, has denied any document is being prepared before a second round of international peace talks in Vienna this week.The text does not rule out Assad's participation in an early presidential election, something his enemies say is impossible if there is to be peace. Russia began airstrikes in Syria six weeks ago after insurgents edged closer to government-held areas vital to Assad.One diplomat said the Russians had also expressed frustration in the past with Assad for not accepting limited political reforms, something Moscow thinks will be necessary as part of a political process.
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