Russia won't host Assad but welcomes any nation willing to give Syrian president refuge

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Associated Press

Posted on December 22, 2012 at 6:33 PM

BEIRUT (AP) — Russia's foreign minister says Moscow would welcome any country's offer of safe haven for Syrian President Bashar Assad, but it has no plans to make one of its own.

Sergey Lavrov's remarks Friday night are among the clearest signs yet that Russia could be preparing for a Syria without Assad, as rebel make gains on the battlefield. Over the past four weeks, fighting has reached the capital, Damascus, and rebels have captured a string of military bases.

Up to now, Russia has vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Syria's government to stop the violence that has killed more than 40,000 people over the past 21 months. While Russian leaders have given no concrete signs that stance has changed, their tone has shifted in recent days.

Lavrov says if Assad left Syria and it ended the civil war, Russia would say: "Thank God, the carnage is over!"

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