Russia says 'not thinking about' granting Syria's Assad political asylum
Comments by Russian FM come as French President Hollande says will try to convince Russia and China to support harder sanctions against the Syrian regime.
Russia has made no agreement to grant Syrian President Bashar Assad asylum and is "not even thinking about" doing so, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday.
The remarks fell short of a statement that Russia would not consider taking in Assad but were among Moscow's strongest indications yet that it is not planning to do so.
"We have said more than once publicly that we are not even thinking about this," Lavrov told reporters when asked about media reports Russia was ready to offer Assad asylum.
Lavrov's comments came as, also on Saturday, French President Francois Hollande he would try again to convince Russia and China to support harder sanctions against Assad in order to break a diplomatic deadlock and prevent more bloodshed.
"I will once more address Russia and China so that they recognize there would be chaos and civil war if Bashar Assad isn't soon stopped," Hollande said, speaking to the press during a visit to a farm in the southwestern town of Monlezun.
"The regime of Bashar Assad knows it is doomed and so it will use force until the very end," he said. "The role of the member states of the UN Security Council is to step in as quickly as possible."
Western powers have thus far been unsuccessful in ending an impasse at the United Nations over further pressure on Assad. Earlier this month, Hollande said he was trying to persuade Russia and China to forgo their insistence on shielding the leader from additional sanctions.