By Alexei Anishchuk
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Syria has agreed to take part in Moscow-mediated talks on solving the country's crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday, calling on the Syrian opposition to join the planned negotiations.
However, a senior member of the Syrian opposition council said that no invitation had been received from Moscow and that it would be refused anyway.
Moscow, a permanent U.N. Security Council member with veto powers, has offered to host the talks in an effort to end the bloodshed since protests began 10 months ago against President Bashar al-Assad.
"We have received a positive response from the Syrian authorities to our call (to hold talks in Moscow)," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.
"We hope ... that the Syrian opposition will agree to that in the next few days, putting the interests of the Syrian people above all other concerns."
Moscow's offer of talks may be an attempt to strengthen its arguments against a Western draft resolution at the Security Council supporting an Arab League call for Assad to cede power.
Russia has said that Assad's resignation must not be a precondition for the Syrian peace process. It has remained one of Assad's few allies and has supplied him with arms and ammunition during the protests.
Moscow has repeatedly said Assad's opponents share the blame for the bloodshed. It fears a Western resolution could be interpreted broadly enough to lead to a Libyan-style military intervention, which Russia says it will not allow.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov reiterated Moscow would not support the Western resolution, which he said appeared quite similar to the French-inspired Security Council peace initiative condemning Damascus and hinting that Syrian authorities could face U.N. sanctions, which Moscow and Beijing vetoed last year.
"The current Western draft (resolution) is only a step away from the October version, and can by no means be supported by us," he told Interfax news agency. "This document is not balanced ... and above all leaves the door open for intervention in Syrian (internal) affairs."
Russia submitted its own draft resolution in December, but Western diplomats said they could not accept Russian wording assigning blame to the government and the opposition for the violence, which the United Nations says has killed more than 5,000 people.
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alison Williams)