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Moscow Cuts Odds on Assad's Survival: '10%'

Sources close to the Kremlin say Russian leaders have a grim view of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's future as a leader; no to asylum.
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 7/4/2012, 9:30 PM

Syrian President Bashar Assad
Syrian President Bashar Assad
Flash 90

Western powers have reportedly been pressuring Moscow to grant embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad asylum.

"Western countries, and primarily the United States, have been actively trying to persuade Moscow to host the Syrian leader and grant him political asylum," the Russian daily Kommersant reported, citing a Russian diplomatic source.

However, the source indicated that Russia, a key ally of Damascus, "does not project to welcome" the head of the Syrian state.

A separate source wired into the Kremlin said Russian officials estimate Assad has "about 10% chance of remaining in power."

The report indicates a skeptical view of Assad's chances in Moscow, which has sought to protect billions of dollars of investments by shielding the Syrian regime at the United Nations.

For its part, China on Tuesday demanded that the "spirit" of the Agreement on Syria concluded Saturday in Geneva would be applied as quickly as possible, calling on the regime and the opposition to agree on the formation of a transitional government.

"China believes that the urgency is that the agreement by the Task Force on the Syrian issue is implemented," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters.

However, Syrian opposition leaders have dismissed the agreement, which did not call for Assad's ouster at Russia's insistence, as being useless.

The violence stemming from Assad's brutal 16-month crackdown on a popular uprising cum civil war against his 11-year rule has resulted in at least 16,500 deaths, rights officials say.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the two Turkish pilots whose fighter plane shot down on June 22 by the Syrian air defense forces in the eastern Mediterranean were found at the bottom of the sea, said Wednesday the Turkish army.

"The bodies were located in the seabed and work is underway to pull them out of the water," said an online statement by Turkish General Staff.

The shooting down of the Turkish F4 Phantom jet by Syria has turned already souring relations between Ankara and Damascus into an open crisis.

Both nations have deployed military units along their mutual frontier since the jet was shot down.