Volume. 12231

Russia has not softened its position on Syria: Lavrov
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in Brussels on December 4, 2012.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in Brussels on December 4, 2012.
The United States should not believe that Russia has softened its position on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Geneva on Sunday, ahead of a meeting on the Syrian crisis attended by Russian and U.S. diplomats and UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Russia agreed to take part in the talks, he said, on the condition there would be no demand for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, The Associated Press reported. 
"We are not conducting any negotiations on the fate of Assad," Lavrov said Sunday. "All attempts to portray things differently are unscrupulous, even for diplomats of those countries which are known to try to distort the facts in their favor."
Lavrov met last week with Brahimi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Dublin. Afterward, Clinton said the United States and Russia were committed to trying again to get both sides in the Syrian conflict to talk about a political transition. Clinton stressed that the U.S. would continue to insist that Assad's departure be a key part of that transition.
Russia's foreign minister said Sunday that after he agreed to a U.S. proposal to have his and Clinton's deputies "brainstorm" on Syria, the Americans began to suggest that Russia was softening its position.
"No such thing," Lavrov said. "We have not changed our position."
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest, and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings. 
Western states have been calling for Assad to step down. However, Russia and China are strongly opposed to the Western drive to oust Assad. 
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals, mostly from Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. 

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