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UPDATE 1-Russian and U.S. diplomats to meet on Syria on Thursday

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

(Adds Russian meeting with peace envoy Brahimi)

MOSCOW, March 6 (Reuters) - Senior U.S. and Russian diplomats will discuss the Syrian conflict at talks in London on Thursday, Russia said on Wednesday, announcing the latest in a series of meetings aimed at finding an end to the bloodshed.

Russia's special Middle East envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, will hold talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns on the sidelines of an international meeting on Yemen, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

Moscow and Washington have long been at odds over the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and repeated meetings between senior U.S. and Russian diplomats in recent months have given little sign of progress toward ending the two-year conflict that has killed some 70,000 people.

The United States says he must abandon power but Russia, which sells arms to Syria and rents one of its naval bases, says his exit must not be a precondition for a negotiated settlement, and has blocked Western-backed efforts to use the clout of the U.N. Security Council to pressure him.

The planned meeting comes after a telephone call on Friday in which the White House said Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed on "the need to advance a political transition" to end the violence in Syria as soon as possible.

The Kremlin said Putin and Obama had told their foreign ministers to seek "new initiatives" to end the civil war.

Bogdanov also met Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League peace envoy for Syria, in London on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Brahimi has said Russia and the United States hold the key to finding an agreement on Syria, where the conflict started with street protests against Assad's rule and escalated into a civil war with sectarian overtones.

Bogdanov also held talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130306/update-1-russian-and-us-diplomats-meet-syria-thursday