14:39 GMT +316 February 2019
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    Syrian President to Send Delegation to Russia

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    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday confirmed his readiness to send an official government delegation to Moscow to hold talks with the Syrian opposition, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday confirmed his readiness to send an official government delegation to Moscow to hold talks with the Syrian opposition, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.

    Lavrov on Tuesday held talks with Assad in Damascus to seek resolution of the Syrian crisis. He also said after the talks that Assad will declare a date in the near future for a referendum on a new constitution for his country.

    Lavrov’s visit, together with Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov, comes three days after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, backed by the Arab League and Western nations, to prevent the repetition of “the Libyan scenario.”

    Russia is one of Assad’s firm supporters during the uprising against his regime.

    Ahead of the visit, Lavrov said the UN Security Council was too “hasty” in bringing the resolution to a vote and described Western condemnation of Moscow’s veto as “hysterical.”

    The talks between Assad and Lavrov came as Syrian authorities continued to bombard the city of Homs, a center of resistance to his regime. The Syrian government denied targeting civilians and say security forces killed “dozens of terrorists” in Homs on Monday.

    Homs has been under attack from government forces for weeks. About one hundred people were reported killed on Monday alone.

    Human rights groups say more than 7,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising began in March last year. The government says around 2,000 members of its security forces have been killed in the unrest.

    Russia is one of Syria’s main arms suppliers. In December, Russia signed a $550 million contract to sell Syria 36 Yak-130 combat trainer jets, and a Russian-owned ship reportedly carrying ammunition docked at a Syrian port last month.