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Russia Admits Assad May Fall



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The BBC:

A Russian official has said for the first time that the Syrian government may be defeated by opposition forces. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are “losing more and more control and territory”, deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.

He said Russia, one of Syria’s staunchest allies, was making plans for a possible evacuation of thousands of its citizens. . . .

Russia, along with China, has used its veto at the UN Security Council to block resolutions condemning the Syrian government’s use of violence.

But Mr Bogdanov said on Thursday: “Unfortunately, we cannot rule out the victory of the Syrian opposition.”

Mr Bogdanov repeated Russia’s call for dialogue between the two sides, predicting that the fighting would grow more intense.

He said tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of people would be killed if that happened.

“If such a price for ousting the president seems acceptable to you, then what can we do? We consider it unacceptable,” he said. . . .

Mr Bogdanov’s comments do not mean Moscow has changed its official position, the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg in Moscow reports.

Russia still maintains that the ousting of President Assad would deepen the conflict, but this is the first time Russia has publicly acknowledged that the Syrian president faces possible defeat, our correspondent adds.

While Russia also criticized the U.S.’s recent recognition of the Syrian opposition, deeming it acquiescence to the rebels’ hopes for “armed victory,” the statements by Bogdanov are hardly that critical of the opposition itself, saying that, for instance, Russia considers their goal unacceptable, rather than saying it actually is unacceptable. Iraq’s finance minister also said yesterday that he believes Assad will fall within “weeks.”



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