Car Bomb Explodes in Damascus; Russia: Neither Side Will Win Syria Civil War

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavarov: Russia and China unable to persuade the Syrian president to step down, Assad's chemical weapons are secure.

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A car bomb killed five people and wounded dozens in the eastern Damascus district of Qaboun on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Another activist group in Damascus gave no figures for the number of people killed in the blast but said bodies were still being recovered from wreckage caused by the explosion.

The British-based Observatory, which monitors violence across Syria through a network of sources on the ground, also reported clashes between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad on the edge of the southern Damascus neighborhood of Hajar al-Aswad. The district is next to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, which was taken over by rebels this week.

Russian FM Lavarov: Assad's chemical weapons are secured

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov estimated over the weekend that neither side would win the civil war in Syria, adding also that China and Russia would be unable to persuade President Bashar Assad to quit even if they tried.

Lavrov told reporters late Friday that countries in the region he wouldn't name publicly had asked Russia to convey their offer of a safe passage to Assad. He said that Russia responded by telling them to go directly to Assad.

"If there is anyone willing to provide him guarantees, they are welcome" he told reporters on board a plane returning from Brussels where he attended a Russia-EU summit. "We would be the first to cross ourselves and say: 'Thank God, the carnage is over!' If it indeed ends the carnage, which is far from certain."

An unconfirmed report published on Saturday said that Moscow and Washington have reached last week an agreement according to Assad would step down, making way for a transitional government to take over. The report, int he Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat, cited opposition figures saying that the Syrian president is ready to negotiate the move.

Lavarov also said the Syrian government has pulled its chemical weapons together to one or two locations from several arsenals across the country to keep them safe amid the rebel onslaught.

"According to the information we have, as well as the data of the U.S. and European special services, the government is doing everything to secure it," he said.

U.S. intelligence says the regime may be readying chemical weapons and could be desperate enough to use them. Both Israel and the U.S. have also expressed concerns they could fall into militant hands if the regime crumbles.

Lavrov added that UN peace envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, would visit Moscow for talks before the year's end. He said that Moscow has also invited the revamped Syrian opposition leadership to visit.

"We are ready to honestly explain that the emphasis on a military solution
and the dismantling of the state institutions is disastrous for the country,"
he said. "Listen, there will be no winner in this war."

The Observatory says 44,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising erupted against Assad in March last year.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Damascus, February 7, 2012.Credit: Reuters

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