Neither side 'will win in Syria'
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that neither side would win the civil war in Syria, and that China and Russia would be unable to persuade president Bashar al-Assad to quit if they tried.
Russia has been rowing back after the Kremlin's Middle East envoy was quoted as saying earlier this month that the rebels could defeat Assad's government and that Russia was preparing for a possible evacuation of its nationals, the strongest signs yet that Russia is positioning itself for a post-Assad Syria.
"Listen, no one is going to win this war," Mr Lavrov told reporters aboard a government plane en route to Moscow from the Russia-EU summit in Brussels.
"Assad is not going anywhere, no matter what anyone says, be it China or Russia."
Mr Lavrov repeated that Russia had rejected requests from countries in the region to pressure Assad to go or offer him safe haven, and that his exit might lead to an upsurge in fighting.
"Some regional powers suggested that we tell Assad we were ready to accommodate him," he said. "And we replied: "Why do we have to do it? If you have these plans, go to him yourselves directly."
He said the international envoy seeking peace through diplomacy, Lakhdar Brahimi, would visit Russia before the end of this year.
In comments cleared for release today, Mr Lavrov also said Syria's chemical weapons had been concentrated in one or two areas and were "under control" for the time being.
He said the biggest threat from Syria's chemical weapons was that they could fall into the hands of militants.
"Currently the (Syrian) government is doing all it can to secure (chemical weapons), according to intelligence data we have and the West has," he said.
"The Syrian authorities have concentrated those arms deposits, previously scattered across the country, in one or two centres."
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this month that Washington had intelligence raising serious concerns that Assad's government was considering using chemical weapons against Syrian rebels.
Meanwhile, a car bomb killed five people and wounded dozens in the eastern Damascus district of Qaboun today, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Another activist group in Damascus gave no figures for the number of people killed in the blast but said bodies were still being recovered from wreckage caused by the explosion.
The British-based Observatory, which monitors violence across Syria through a network of sources on the ground, also reported clashes between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Assad on the edge of the southern Damascus neighbourhood of Hajar al-Aswad.
The district is next to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, which was taken over by rebels this week.
The Observatory says 44,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising erupted against Assad in March last year.