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Lavrov holds first talks with Syria opposition leader

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday held his first direct talks with Syrian opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib, Russian news reports quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, the reports said, without disclosing the substance of the talks.

The meeting came just days after Khatib said he was ready to negotiate with the Damascus regime, subject to conditions such as the release of some 160,000 Syrian detainees.

Lavrov had earlier on Saturday held separate talk with US Vice President Joe Biden and UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi amid strong disagreement between Moscow and Washington about ways to end the Syria conflict.

Russia's top diplomat said Moscow shared Washington's concern about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria but considered the situation to be safe at this stage.

"We coordinate this issue (chemical weapons) with the Americans on a daily basis. We have reliable information that for now, the Syrian government has control of the chemical weapons, that the situation is safe," Lavrov said in his address to the conference.

"I think that this (the use of chemical weapons) is a 'red line' for everyone. We are categorically against the use of any arms."

Russia has blocked three UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the violence, and has been blamed by the armed opposition for being partially responsible for the bloodshed.

Talks between Moscow and rebel leaders have been rare and on one previous occasion last year ended with the opposition demanding a formal apology from Russia for its stance.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130202/lavrov-holds-first-talks-syria-opposition-leader