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Putin Puts Limits on Defense of Syrian President

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- There were mixed signals coming from Moscow about its stance on the Syrian conflict Thursday as President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his government's opposition to direct international intervention while at the same time conceding that Russia wasn't willing to support embattled President Bashar al-Assad "at any price."

Russia's intransigent position on Syria has continually frustrated Washington and its United Nations partners, stemming from Moscow and Beijing's vetoes of Security Council resolutions that might have left al-Assad no other choice but to step down so that the bloody 21-month war that has now cost an estimated 40,000 lives might end.

Still, when pressed about how far he would go to the mat for his Syrian ally, Putin told reporters, "We are not concerned with the fate of Assad’s regime.  Of course, changes are being demanded but it’s something else that concerns -- what will happen next?"

What the Russian president believes is that the forces who might ultimately replace al-Assad will bring no more stability to Syria then exists now and that fighting would continue indefinitely.

Thus, Putin says he favors "a variation of a solution to the problem which would save the region and this country first from collapse and never-ending civil war."  He mentioned that a military victory would not result in peace, and negotiations that involve the Syrian people themselves are the only answer.

Putin also got a dig in at Washington and President Obama for the limited role the U.S. played in toppling Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya last year.  The Russia leader intimated that the instability that has persisted in Libya since created the conditions that led to the siege at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi three months ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio