* Brahimi in Moscow Saturday to discuss peace proposals
* Russia has invited head of opposition Syrian National
* World powers divided over Assad's role in transition
* Moscow says Assad's exit cannot be precondition for talks
MOSCOW, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Russia urged the Syrian
government on Friday to act on its stated readiness for dialogue
with its opponents, throwing its weight behind a diplomatic push
to end a 21-month-old conflict in Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had urged
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad to emphasize his
government's openness to dialogue with the opposition during
talks in Moscow on Thursday.
"We actively encouraged... the Syrian leadership to make as
concrete as possible its declared readiness for dialogue with
the opposition," Lavrov told reporters after talks with his
Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr in Moscow.
He said the Syrian government should stress its readiness
for talks on the widest possible range of matters, in line with
an international agreement in Geneva last June calling for a
"I think a realistic and detailed assessment of the
situation inside Syria will prompt reasonable opposition members
to seek ways to start a political dialogue," added Lavrov, who
last week said that neither side would win by force.
Russia expects to meet a senior U.S. diplomat on Syria next
month to discuss with international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
his plans to end the civil war there, the Kremlin's envoy to the
region said earlier on Friday.
Brahimi will visit Moscow on Saturday for talks on the
results of his negotiations with Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad and his opponents during a five-day trip to Damascus in
which he called for political change to end the bloodshed.
"We will listen to what Lakhdar Brahimi has to say about the
situation in Syria and after that, probably, there will be a
decision to hold a new meeting of the 'three Bs'," Deputy
Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the RIA news agency - in
a word play on the first letter of the diplomats' last names.
Bogdanov, U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns and
Brahimi, the joint special representative of the United Nations
and the Arab League, agreed that a political solution to the
crisis was necessary and possible in talks earlier this month.
Bogdanov, the Kremlin's special envoy for Middle East
Affairs, said the three would meet again in January after the
Russia has also invited the head of the
internationally-recognised, opposition Syrian National Council,
Moaz al-Khatib, to talks, he said, in comments that appeared
underline Moscow's commitment to helping Brahimi seek a way out
of the crisis.
Russia has been critical of the Western backing for the
Syrian National Council trying to oust Assad.
Brahimi, who has called for a transitional government to
rule until elections, is trying to broker a peaceful transfer of
power in Syria, where more than 44,000 people have been killed
in a revolt against four decades of Assad family rule.
What role Assad and members of his government might play in
a transitional body - a plan outlined in Geneva six months ago -
has divided world powers.
Past peace efforts have floundered as what began as peaceful
protests in March 2011 turned into civil war. The conflict has
become an increasingly sectarian struggle between mostly Sunni
Muslim rebels and Assad's security forces, drawn primarily from
his Shi'ite-rooted Alawite minority.
World powers believe Russia, which has given Assad military
and diplomatic aid during the uprising, has the ear of Syria's
government and must be a central player in any peace talks.
Moscow has tried to distance itself from Assad in recent
months and has denied it is not propping him up. But it
maintains Assad's exit cannot be a precondition for talks and
has repeatedly said Western powers should not impose solutions
Lavrov warned on Thursday that time was running out to find
a peaceful solution to the conflict and halt a descent into