MOSCOW Aug 14 The Russian Foreign Ministry
denied a Saudi Arabian newspaper report on Tuesday that cited
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov as saying
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was ready to step down,
state-run news agency RIA reported.
"Mikhail Bogdanov gave no interview to the Saudi newspaper
al-Watan," RIA cited an unnamed source in the Foreign Ministry's
press department as saying.
It said Bogdanov had not given an interview to the paper by
phone or in person.
Watan, which said it spoke to Bogdanov in a phone interview,
reported him as saying that Assad had agreed to step down, but
it gave no further details.
It also reported that Bogdanov had said Assad's brother
Maher al-Assad lost his legs during a bombing in Damascus that
killed senior security officials and he was "struggling for
The newspaper did not say when the interview took place and
the only direct quotes it attributed to Bogdanov were on the
subject of Russia's position on the crisis.
The Russian Foreign Ministry declined immediate comment to
Reuters, asking for a written request.
Russia has shielded Assad from pressure by joining China in
blocking three Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions
aimed to end 17 months of bloodshed, including one last month
that would have threatened Syria's government with sanctions.
Russia says it is not propping up Assad and would accept his
exit from power in a political transition decided by the Syrian
people, but that his departure must not be a precondition and he
must not be pushed out by external forces, including the