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Russia open to meeting with Syrian opposition

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By The Los Angeles Times
Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 9:08 p.m.

MOSCOW — Russia is ready to meet with leaders of the opposition group seeking to overthrow Moscow's ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, a high Russian official confirmed on Friday.

“We expressed readiness to meet with (the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces) head A.M. al-Khatib and are still inclined to do it,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a news conference in Moscow after meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed Kamel Amr. “We understand that they don't have objections to the proposal to meet.”

Russia has long been one of Assad's staunchest supporters, along with Iran. However, in recent weeks Russian officials have signaled an increased openness to the possibility that his regime may not survive.

Lavrov spoke on the eve of his meeting Saturday with U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Lavrov met with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad on Thursday. He said during the meeting the Russians “actively compelled — something we have been doing in recent months — the Syrian leadership to make fully concrete its declared readiness for dialog with the opposition.”

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