Russia: Assad wants his VP to speak to opposition

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MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's foreign minister says that Syrian President Bashar Assad wants his vice president to hold talks with the opposition forces.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Assad "delegated the responsibility of holding such a dialogue to Vice President (Farouk) al-Sharaa." Lavrov met with Assad in Damascus on Tuesday.

The Syrian opposition rejects any talks with the regime and says they accept nothing less than Assad's departure.

Lavrov blamed both Assad's regime and opposition forces for instigating the violence that has killed thousands of people since March.

He told journalists in Moscow that "on both sides there are people that aim at an armed confrontation, not a dialogue."

Russia and China blocked on Saturday a U.N. Security Council resolution supporting calls for Assad to hand over some powers as a way to defuse the 11-month-old crisis.