Russia official: Assad ready to step down from power; Syria denies
Russia's ambassador to France says Syrian president accepted a deal to transition country into democratic regime, resign.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has accepted that he will have to leave power, but will only leave in an orderly way, Russia's ambassador to France said on French radio on Friday.
"At the Geneva conference, there was a final communique that foresees a transition towards a more democratic system," Alexandre Orlov told RFI radio.
"This final communique was accepted by Assad. Assad nominated his representative to lead the negotiations with the opposition for this transition. That means he accepted to leave, but in an orderly way."
However, later Friday, Syria's Information Ministry said that the comments by the Russian official were "completely devoid of truth."
On Thursday, Russia and China voted down a Security Council resolution on the Syria crisis, the third time the two countries have used their veto power to block resolutions designed to isolate Assad.
The draft threatened Syrian authorities with sanctions unless they halt violence against an uprising, and the dual veto drew immediate criticism from the United States, Britain and France, which all backed the resolution.
Earlier on Friday, China's official Xinhua news agency said that Western diplomats were to blame for the failure of the latest UN Security Council resolution on Syria after they tried to ram through an imbalanced draft that did not put enough pressure on opposition groups.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Beijing earlier this week and discussed the issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao, said he was "deeply disappointed" by the Security Council vote on Thursday.
In a commentary, Xinhua said the draft was not balanced, and that Western diplomats "displayed arrogance and inflexibility" in negotiations, effectively killing the draft.
"Western diplomats rushed to point fingers at Russia and China after the resolution was defeated, but they have only themselves to blame for trying to force such an ill-considered draft through the Council," it said.
While such commentaries do not necessarily constitute official statements, they may be read as a reflection of Chinese government thinking on important issues.
The resolution draft did not exert "enough pressure on the increasingly violent opposition groups", Xinhua said.
Western support of the resolution sent a message "that politicians in London and Washington are only interested in tying the hands of Damascus, while the violent operations of the anti-government forces would be tolerated and even encouraged", it said.
Instead of taking what Xinhua called a confrontational approach, Western powers should work with Russia and China to support the peace-making efforts of UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan.
"The mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, which expires on Friday, should be renewed as soon as possible to give peace efforts another chance," it said.
"Council members should also enhance coordination and display flexibility so as to convey a unified message to all concerned parties in Syria. Only through this way can the Council find an effective resolution to the crisis and secure its own credibility."
On Friday, Russia rejected also rejected western criticism over its veto, with Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the draft resolution Russia and China blocked on Thursday was "absolutely unrealistic" and called on Western nations to put more pressure on Syrian rebels to stop fighting.