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US shifting stance on Syria: Russian MP

Moscow, Feb 14 (IANS/RIA Novosti): The US is shifting toward Russia's position on Syria, in fear of a repeat of the "Afghan scenario" with an Islamist regime coming to power there, a Russian lawmaker has said.

"There is one moment in which our American friends are starting to get closer to our position. In particular, they have acknowledged that the fall of Syria's administration could unleash the most unfavourable consequences," said State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Alexei Pushkov.

"The Americans have understood that if everything collapses, we will have another Afghanistan," Pushkov said, but did not support his claim with any evidence.

He saod rebel groups in Syria are supported by radical Islamist forces linked to international terrorist organisations.

This poses a danger to Christians, Shias and other minorities in Syria.

"That's why I think it is not about (Russia) shifting its positions, but it is about the West getting closer to recognising our arguments," Pushkov said.

He reiterated that Russia, which remains a staunch ally of Syria, will not agree to setting President Bashar al-Assad's resignation as a precondition for peace talks.

"The Americans want us to use our pressure to oust Assad. I think we will not accept this, because we believe this is wrong. But we can use our influence to start the negotiation process, we are ready for this," Pushkov said.

In an official statement last week, the US State Department said: "We are working with other nations to further isolate the regime and support the Syrian people's calls for President Assad to step down."

Syria has been locked in a civil war since demonstrations broke out against Assad in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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