Russia sees no chance of Syrian president Assad stepping down
MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia acknowledged on Saturday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not be persuaded to quit but insisted there is still a chance of finding a political solution to the 21-month conflict.
International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned Syria was facing a choice between "hell or the political process" after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on his end-of-year bid to accelerate moves to halt a conflict that monitors say has now killed more than 45,000 people.
The talks came amid emerging signs that Russia was beginning to distance itself from Mr Assad's government and urgent efforts by Mr Brahimi to resurrect a failed peace initiative that world powers agreed to in Geneva in June.
"It is really indispensible that the conflict finishes in 2013 and really the beginning of 2013," the envoy said. Mr Lavrov said both he and Mr Brahimi agreed there was hope for a solution as long as world powers put pressure on both sides. "The confrontation is escalating. But we agree the chance for a political solution remains," he said.