Russia rejects Assad exit as precondition for Syria deal
(Reuters) - Russia voiced support on Saturday for international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi but insisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's exit cannot be a precondition for a deal to end the country's conflict.
Some 60,000 Syrians have been killed during the 21-month-old revolt and world powers are divided over how to stop the escalating bloodshed. Government aircraft bombed outer districts of Damascus on Saturday after being grounded for a week by stormy weather, opposition activists in the capital said.
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement following talks on Friday with the United States and Brahimi reiterated calls for an end to violence in Syria, but there was no sign of a breakthrough.
Brahimi said the issue of Assad, whom the United States, European powers and Gulf-led Arab states insist must step down to end the civil war, appeared to be a sticking point at the meeting in Geneva.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said: "As before, we firmly uphold the thesis that questions about Syria's future must be decided by the Syrians themselves, without interference from outside or the imposition of prepared recipes for development."