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Hollande to push ceasefire extension at Syria talks with Putin, Merkel

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PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday he would do everything possible to try to extend a ceasefire in eastern Aleppo when he discusses Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin this evening.

“As we speak bombings are still taking place. It’s true a truce was announced and it’s been 24 hours. I will do everything tonight with Chancellor Merkel so that this truce is extended,” Hollande said after meeting representatives from rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

Hollande, who last week refused to meet Putin in Paris unless they discussed Syria, will meet his Russian and German counterparts in Berlin for a summit on Ukraine Wednesday evening and agreed to hold a separate talks on the situation in Syria.

European leaders have grown increasingly angry over a Russian-backed Syrian government onslaught against Western-backed rebels in Aleppo and the impact on some 300,000 civilians still living there.

They will discuss in Brussels on Thursday their ties with Russia, although sanctions against Moscow for its actions in Syria are an option being discussed even if there is no European-wide consensus in the short-term.

“France will do everything to exert pressure, notably on the allies of the (Syrian) regime - I’m thinking of the Russians - so that the truce can be extended.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday that Russia ruled out extending a pause in bombing of Syria’s Aleppo unilaterally. Russia has said it would pause bombing for eight hours on Thursday.

Speaking alongside Hollande, Brita Hagi Hassan, president of the city council for opposition-held Aleppo, said Europe had talked a great deal about saving the city, but done very little in reality.

“We talked about the European Union being a big power, but there has been a lot of words, sympathy, but not many acts. The EU, as a big power, has been in third place behind the United States and Russia, which has been helping the regime with all its power to massacre the Syrian people.”

Reporting by John Irish and Jean-Baptiste Vey; editing by Michel Rose and Leigh Thomas