Assad urges Russian role in Mideast peace talks

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday urged Russia to take a leading role in sponsoring peace talks in the Middle East, and denied that Russian weapons sold to Syria ended up in the hands of Hizbullah. President Vladimir Putin hosted Assad for talks focusing on fighting between Palestinian factions and the political crisis in Lebanon - part of Moscow's effort to strengthen its role in the Middle East amid escalating tensions in the region. "Russia could become the sponsor of the Middle East peace process and carry out this role effectively," Assad told journalists through a translator after his meeting with Putin. Assad stressed that having an influential sponsor in the peace process was crucial to jump-start talks between Syria and Israel.