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West Pressing Russia to Give Assad Asylum

Wikimedia CommonsSyrian President Bashar Assad

TheWest is trying toconvince Russia tooffer Syrian President Bashar Assad political asylum, although Russia claims it has no intention ofdoing so, a news report said Wednesday.

"Western countries, andabove all theUnited States, are making active attempts topersuade Moscow totake inthe Syrian leader andprovide him with political asylum," asource indiplomatic circles told business daily Kommersant.

But thesource added that Russia has never entertained such plans.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly denied that Russia would harbor theunpopular Syrian president, whose country has been wracked byan internal conflict lasting more than ayear.

"We aren't defending Assad," anunidentified Kremlin source told Kommersant. "The president ofSyria has missed his chance. Thelikelihood ofhim remaining inpower is slim, about 10 percent."

Russia has been accused ofprotecting Assad after blocking several UN Security Council resolutions drafted byWestern powers calling forAssad's ouster.

U.S. Secretary ofState Hillary Clinton said Assad must leave at aninternational conference onSyria inGeneva last week, while UN andArab League special envoy Kofi Annan pushed for a transitional government tosmooth theeffects ofAssad's exit.

According tohuman rights organizations, more than 15,000 people have died— including significant civilian casualties— since thearmed uprising against Assad began in March 2011.

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