Russia says West is increasingly wary of Assad ouster by Islamists

Western diplomats areincreasingly saying that President Bashar Assad keeping poweris a better option for Syria than his overthrow by Islamistmilitants, Russia's foreign minister was quoted as saying onFriday.

"Not only in private meetings but also in public comments,the idea is occurring to some Western colleagues that...Assadremaining in office is less of a threat for Syria than atakeover of the country by terrorists," Sergei Lavrov told RIAnews agency in an interview published on Friday.

Russia has been Assad's most important supporter duringSyria's civil war, blocking Western-backed efforts to condemnAssad at the UN Security Council or to push him out of power.

Moscow says it is not trying to prop up Assad but that hisdeparture cannot be a precondition for peace moves.