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France calls on Russia to convince Assad to resign

French President Francois Hollande

Source : Presstv / 9 Mar 2013

French President Francois Hollande has called on Russia to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign and allow for a political transition in the crisis-hit country.

Hollande said on Friday that although he would try to persuade the Syrian opposition to hold talks with other officials in Syria rather than the president, “the Russians still need to reach out and convince Bashar al-Assad to stand aside".

"For the moment we're still not there," he added.

Hollande’s remarks come shortly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that there would be “absolutely” no chance that Moscow pressures al-Assad to step down.

Lavrov said that Moscow was not in the “regime change game,” adding that Russia was opposed to interference in domestic conflicts.

“We have been against any preconditions to stop the violence and start the dialogue, because we believe that the priority number one is to save lives,” Lavrov said.

He went on to say that those who say Assad must disappear before the start of any talks have a different priority than the lives of the Syrian people, reiterating that it was only up to the Syrian nation to decide who will lead their country.

Meanwhile, French presidential office said in a statement late Friday that Hollande had congratulated the leader of the foreign-backed Syrian opposition coalition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, on the Arab League's recent decision to recognize the coalition as the sole legitimate representative of Syrians.

Hollande "reiterates France's consistent stance that a transition involves the departure of Bashar al-Assad", part of the statement read.

During their meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, Arab League foreign ministers offered the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC) Syria's seat at the league, and decided to let its member countries to provide arms to militants fighting the government.

Arab League suspended Syria's membership at the Cairo-based bloc in November 2011.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of Army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government has said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of the militants operating in the country are foreign nationals.

Several international human rights organizations have accused foreign-sponsored militants of committing war crimes.


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