08/22/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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Damascus ready to discuss Assad's resignation

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil makes the announcement in Moscow where he is discussing possible new presidential elections. For the United States, there wasn't "anything terribly new" in his statement. Jamil refuses preconditions on talks. In the capital, 42 civilians die. Four foreign journalists have also died since the uprising began.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Syrian government is prepared to discuss Bashar al-Assad's exit, but that the president's resignation cannot be a pre-condition for talks, Syria's Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil (pictured) said yesterday in Moscow where he is on a visit. This is the first time that a member of the Assad government openly suggested the possibility of the president's departure. However, the US was not impressed. "Frankly, we didn't see anything terribly new there," said US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. In Syria meanwhile, fighting continues. In the capital, opposition activists and residents of the Maadamiyat al Sham suburb said that security forces killed 42 civilians. In Aleppo, a Japanese journalist, Mika Yamamoto, who worked for Japan Press, was killed.

In Moscow, Jamil met a Chinese delegation and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The latter said only the UN Security Council could authorise the use of force against Syria and warned against imposing "democracy by bombs".

At a press conference, Syria's deputy prime minister warned that "Those who contemplate it [military intervention] are rushing into a much wider confrontation, one that goes beyond the Syrian borders," he said.

Sources within the regime are saying that Jamil was sent to Moscow to discuss a plan that would include new presidential election open to all candidates, including Assad.

Previously, the Syrian National Council (SNC), the umbrella group that includes all opposition groups, both those inside Syria and those outside the country, said it was setting up a transitional government. However, it has not said whether it would include members of the old regime.

Jamil's statement comes two days after President Obama warned Syria's government that the United States might intervene if chemical weapons were used.

In July, the Syrian government admitted that it had chemical and biological weapons and might use them in case of any "external aggression".

The death of Japanese female reporter Mika Yamamoto, 45, brought to four the number of foreign journalists killed since the uprising erupted.

The circumstances of her death are unclear. Two days ago, reports began circulating about an Asian reporter wounded in gunfire.

Ms Yamamoto had been a war correspondent in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

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