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France slams Russian refusal to push Assad to quit

Reuters/Remo Casilli

French President François Hollande has hit out at Russia’s refusal to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to quit, adding that he would urge the opposition to negotiate with other regime figures.


"The Russians still need to reach out and convince Bashar al-Assad to stand aside,’ Hollande said Friday. "For the moment we're still not there."

Earlier Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov again said that Moscow has no intention of pushing Assad to leave power, saying that such a move would be against Russian policy and unlikely to succeed.

In a statement later Friday the French presidential office said Hollande had congratulated Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib of the Syrian National Coalition on the Arab League's decision to recognise the opposition group as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Hollande "supports al-Khatib's initiative of proposing a political dialogue" and "reiterates France's consistent stance that a transition involves the departure of Bashar al-Assad", it said.

Khatib created a split in opposition ranks with a recent call for dialogue with the regime in return for the release of 160,000 prisoners, although he went on to call on Assad to give his vice-president the task of leading the government side.

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