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West increasingly wary of Assad ouster by Islamists: Russia

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[December 20, 2013]  MOSCOW (Reuters)  Western diplomats are increasingly saying that President Bashar al-Assad keeping power is a better option for Syria than the country being ruled by Islamist militants, Russia's foreign minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

"Not only in private meetings but also in public comments, the idea is occurring to some Western colleagues that ... Assad remaining in office is less of a threat for Syria than a takeover of the country by terrorists," Sergei Lavrov told RIA news agency in an interview published on Friday.

Russia has been Assad's most important supporter during Syria's civil war. It says his removal from power must not be a precondition for holding peace talks.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Timothy Heritage)

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