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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria Ready for 'Synchronized Pullout' - Russia

RIA Novosti

19:21 22/06/2012 ST.PETERSBURG, June 22 (RIA Novosti) - The Syrian leadership has told Russia it is ready to withdraw its armed forces from the country's cities in parallel with the forces of the Syrian opposition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday after a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem.

"Among the most important positions in our vision for the forthcoming conference on Syria is that the government forces and armed forces of the opposition should make a synchronized withdrawal of forces from towns and centers of population under control of international observers. The Syrian government has told me today they are ready to do this," Lavrov told Rossiya 24 TV.

“It’s now important that the other side gets ready for the move and that the UN mission in Syria draws up the necessary [withdrawal] plans and pursue their implementation,” Lavrov added.

Moscow also dismissed on Friday U.S. and British objections to Iran’s participation in an international conference on Syria to be held in Geneva on June 30.

“We are convinced that Iran should participate in that conference,” Lavrov said.

The United States and Britain claim that Iran cannot be invited because “it is misbehaving,” he said.

“When the Americans had to ensure additional security for their troops in Iraq and Afghanistan they had no problem talking directly to Iran,” Lavrov said, adding that it was crucial to prevent bloodshed in Syria by accepting the required makeup of conference participants.

Russia has said the conference should include all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Syria's neighbors (Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon), as well as key players in the region (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran) and international organizations (League of Arab States, European Union).

Russia has no plans to send naval forces to Syria with soldiers on board, Lavrov said on Friday in response to recent media reports.

"No, that information is not true," Lavrov said.

On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Minister rejected recent comments by British Prime Minister David Cameron that Russia has changed its stance on Syria. Lavrov told Ekho Moskvy radio on Thursday that the comments were "inappropriate for a politician at such a high level."

Cameron, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, told reporters on Tuesday that "it is welcome that President Putin has been explicit that he does not want Assad remaining in charge in Syria," news agencies reported.

What Putin really told Cameron is that it was unacceptable to remove Assad, presidential aide Yury Ushakov said.

“Putin went on record as saying that [Russia] does not have any special relations with Syria but the president cannot be removed just like that – it’s not the done thing in international affairs,” Ushakov said.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said at a press conference in Geneva that he syupported the idea of Iran's participation in the international conference on Syria. "Iran should be part of the solution," Annan said.

According to UN estimates, about 12,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of a popular uprising against President Assad in March 2011.

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