BEIRUT— Syrian President Bashar Assad “is not bluffing” about his determination to stay in power, Russia’s foreign minister said in comments broadcast Friday, as negotiations to free 21 U.N. peacekeepers held by Syrian rebels dragged into a third day.
Also, the World Food Program said it aims to feed 2.5 million Syrians by next month, up from 1.7 million now. Need has risen sharply as growing numbers of Syrians are displaced by the civil war and as the country’s economy disintegrates in the face of the chaos.
The uprising against Assad began two years ago with largely peaceful protests, but shifted into a brutal civil war after a harsh government crackdown on dissent. More than 70,000 people have been killed, according to U.N. estimates.
The conflict has been deadlocked for months, with neither side able to gain the upper hand, although the rebels have scored a series of strategic victories in recent weeks, seizing a provincial capital in the northeast, capturing the country’s largest dam and overrunning a number of smaller military bases.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the BBC in an interview broadcast Friday that the Syrian leader is digging in and “is not going to leave.”
Read More at OfficialWire . By Karin Laub.
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