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Russia says it won't host Assad but others welcome

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 22, 2012 at 1:25 p.m.

— Russia's foreign minister said Moscow would welcome any country's offer of a safe haven to Syrian President Bashar Assad, but underlined that Moscow itself has no intention of giving him shelter if he steps down.

Russia has repeatedly used its veto right along with China at the U.N. Security Council to protect its old ally from international sanctions, but it has increasingly sought to distance itself from Assad.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters late Friday that countries in the region he wouldn't name publicly had asked Russia to convey their offer of a safe passage to Assad. He said that Russia responded by telling them to go directly to Assad: "We replied: 'What do we have to do with it? If you have such plans, you go straight to him.'"

Asked if Moscow could offer a refuge to Assad, Lavrov responded that "Russia has publicly said that it doesn't invite President Assad."

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