Friday, December 14, 2012

Russia Insists it Still Supports Assad

Foreign Ministry Backs Off Comments Attributed to Bogdanov, 

Says Deputy FM Was Referring to Claims by Syrian Opposition 



Russia's foreign ministry says Moscow's policy on Syria has not changed, after a top diplomat was quoted as saying Syria's opposition may win its battles against President Bashar al-Assad.

The ministry, on Friday, said Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov had not made any statements or conducted "special interviews" with journalists over the past few days regarding Syria.

On Thursday, Russian media quoted him as saying Assad was increasingly losing control of his country's territory, and that an opposition victory could not be ruled out.  It was seen as the first time Russia, a powerful Syrian ally, had acknowledged the Syrian government was beginning to crumble in its nearly two-year battle against anti-government forces.

But Russia's foreign ministry said Bogdanov was referring to the claims of the ``Syrian opposition and its foreign sponsors forecasting their quick victory over the regime in Damascus."  It said Bogdanov made the remark to a Kremlin advisory body that was discussing issues in the Middle East and North Africa.

Separately, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen predicted a pessimistic outcome for Assad. On Thursday, he said Assad's government was "approaching collapse" and the Syrian leader's fall was "only a matter of time."

-VOA