MOSCOW, July 19 (RIA Novosti)
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The possibility of Moscow providing a safe haven in exile for embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was not discussed during a conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama, a Kremlin aide said on Thursday.
“They did not discuss any destination,” Putin aide Yury Ushakov told RIA Novosti.
The two presidents spoke on Wednesday, just hours after the death of Syria’s defense minister in a suicide bombing in Damascus.
Ushakov also said the issue had also not been touched on in a meeting on Wednesday between Putin and Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Reports in British and Turkish media on Thursday suggested that Assad’s wife, Asma, had fled to Russia after Wednesday’s attack on Syria's national security headquarters.
Russia's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the rumors when contacted by RIA Novosti.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed as a “joke” earlier this month the suggestion that Moscow could offer Assad refuge.
The Kremlin has come under international pressure over its refusal to back UN resolutions against Syria, Russia’s sole remaining ally in the Arab world.
But Russia says it has no interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but that the “Syrian people” should decide his fate.
A UN Security Council vote on a tough, new Western-backed resolution was postponed in the wake of Wednesday’s bombing in Damascus and has been rescheduled for Thursday. Russia – along with China – is expected to use its Security Council veto to block the resolution.
Fighting continued for a fifth day in Damascus on Thursday as the rebel Free Syria Army continued what it said was the final battle for Syria.
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