Russia denies it is backing UN's plan for Syrian transition

In this picture taken on Tuesday, June 26, 2012, Syrian rebels, gather on their pickup truck as during clashes with the Syrian forces troops, at Saraqeb town, in the northern province of Idlib, Syria. Investigators say they have concluded that Syrian government troops could be behind the killing of more than 100 civilians in the village of Houla last month. The findings, which were presented to the U.N.'s top human rights body, could lay some of the groundwork for prosecuting alleged crimes against humanity or war crimes in Syria. (AP Photo/Fadi Zaidan)

MOSCOW - Russia is denying comments by a U.S. official that it has endorsed a Syrian transition plan that includes a call for President Bashar Assad to give up power in favour of a national unity government.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss diplomatic negotiations, says international envoy Kofi Annan has assured the United States that world powers gathering in Geneva for talks have endorsed the plan and that Russia is among its backers.

But, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied that Thursday. He says, "''We are not supporting and will not support any external meddling."

Russia — one of the five permanent Security Council members along with Britain, China, France and the U.S. — has previously warned it would firmly oppose any document urging Assad to step down.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Helsinki.


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