BEIRUT/DUBAI - Syrian opposition figures and Gulf commentators dismissed on Wednesday a Russian draft proposal for a process to solve the Syrian crisis, saying Moscow's aim was to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power and marginalize dissenting voices.
Separately, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said that if Assad's departure were not completed peacefully, it would be achieved militarily, although he did not address the Russian proposal.
A draft document seen by Reuters on Tuesday showed Moscow would like Damascus and unspecified opposition groups to agree on launching a constitutional reform process of up to 18 months, followed by early presidential elections.
Russia, which with Iran has been Assad's top ally during Syria's nearly five-year conflict, has denied any document is being prepared before a second round of international peace talks in Vienna this week.
The text does not rule out Assad's participation in early presidential elections, something his enemies say is impossible if there is to be peace.
"The Syrian people have never accepted the dictatorship of Assad and they will not accept that it is reintroduced or reformulated in another way," said Monzer Akbik, member of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition.