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Russian envoy to France: Assad ready to step down

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July 20, 2012, 2:11 p.m. | World — by Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Annan discussed the Syria crisis with Lavrov on Monday, and met with President Putin on Tuesday. The UN and Arab League envoy to the Syrian crisis has begun his meeting with the Russian president by saying that Syria is at a crossroads, as violence escalates.
© AP

Associated Press

Associated Press

PARIS — Russia's ambassador to France says Moscow believes Syria's president is ready to step down "in a civilized way." But the Syrian government immediately denied it.

Alexandre Orlov told RFI on Friday that "personally ... I think it will be difficult for him to stay in office given everything that's happened."

He noted that Assad accepted the final statement of the June 30 Geneva agreement for a transition "toward a more democratic regime" and in essence this meant that "he accepted to leave, but leave in a civilized way."

Orlov's statement came after Russia and China blocked a Security Council vote to turn up pressure on Assad and after an attack killed three top Syrian defense officials.

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