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Britain 'flexible' on timing, manner of Assad departure

Syria's president Bashar al-Assad speaks during his meeting with the heads and members of public organizations and professional associations in Damascus, Syria, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA on July 26, 2015. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters/Files -

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Britain insists that Bashar al-Assad cannot be allowed to stay on as Syrian president, but is “flexible” about the manner and timing of his departure, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said on Monday.

Ahead of a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, diplomats have been working to reach a compromise between countries which want Assad to quit immediately and others ready to accept a flexible transition.

“We cannot work with Assad as a long-term solution for the future of Syria. We can be flexible on the manner of his departure. We can be flexible on the timing of his departure,” Hammond said on his arrival at the meeting.

Reporting by Robin Emmott, writing by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek