Russia offers air cover for anti-Assad rebels, urges polls

Syrian government forces in the village of Jabboul on the eastern outskirts of Aleppo after taking the village from Islamic State fighters on October 24, 2015Russia said Saturday it was ready to provide air support for Western-backed moderate rebels battling both jihadists and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as Moscow presses on with its diplomatic offensive over the conflict. Speaking after a surprise summit between Syria’s embattled leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin this week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged moves towards presidential and parliamentary polls in the war-torn country. Representatives of Syria’s Western-backed opposition sounded incredulous, saying Russia should first stop bombing moderate rebels and that talk of elections was premature.

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