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Assad should have initiated dialogue with opposition earlier: Medvedev


08:28, January 29, 2013

MOSCOW, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should have moved faster to seek a deal with the moderate opponents who were ready to sit down with him, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday.

"To my mind, unfortunately, the leadership of Syria proved unprepared for that," Medvedev said in an interview with CNN television, adding it was a "grave mistake."

"It seems to me that his chances of staying (in power) are shrinking day by day," he told CNN on the sidelines of the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Medvedev, however, reiterated Russia's stand that only the Syrian people could decide the fate of al-Assad and rejected foreign interference in settling the 22-month Syrian crisis.

"I want to repeat once again -- this should be decided by the Syrian people, not Russia, or the United States or any other country."

"The international community -- the United States of America, Europeans, and regional nations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others -- should bring the sides to the negotiating table instead of simply demanding that al-Assad leave," Medvedev said.

He warned removing al-Assad by force would mean "decades" of civil war.

Syria has been engulfed in a bloody civil war between opposition forces and government troops since March 2011. It has so far claimed 60,000 lives, according to UN estimates.

Russia has long opposed foreign military intervention and forced regime change in Syria.

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