UPDATE 1-Russia says Syria's Assad "still solid"
PARIS, Sept 10 (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad's government remains "solid" and is still backed by many Syrians who fear those who could take his place, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in remarks published on Monday.
Bogdanov, who is also the Kremlin's special envoy for Middle East affairs, told Le Figaro newspaper that Assad had promised Russia he would be ready to step aside if Syrians chose another leader in an election, although he could not say how "sincere" the Syrian leader was.
Moscow has strongly opposed any foreign intervention in Syria and has repeatedly called on the West and Arabs to press rebels to stop fighting.
"The regime is still solid. It is getting important support from the population," Bogdanov said after meeting Syrian dissidents in Paris.
"This support is not motivated by the Syrians' love of Bashar al-Assad, but more their fear of those who could succeed him," he said.
Bogdanov said Moscow had not lost "hope" of reaching a diplomatic solution if the U.N. Security Council could formally endorse an agreement brokered by former U.N. Syria envoy Kofi Annan which sees a transitional governing authority for Syria.
When the agreement Russia wants the Security Council to endorse was reached in late June, it left open the question of what part Assad might play in a Syrian political process.
Bogdanov said Assad had promised Moscow he would step aside if he lost in an election.
"Assad told us himself. But I don't know how sincere he is," Bogdanov said. "But he clearly told us that if the people didn't want him, and if they chose a different leader in an election, he would go."
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