Russia has rejected Western calls for Syrian President Assad to step down and vowed to stand by him. “We do not share the view of the U.S. and the E.U. regarding President Assad and will continue our principled policy line on Syria.” A spokesman said Mr.Assad had embarked on reforms. “Damascus has recently taken substantial steps in this direction: lifted the state of emergency, disbanded the Supreme State Security Court, adopted a decree on people's right to demonstrations, enacted the laws on general elections and parties, and is finalising the laws on mass media and local self-government.”

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