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CIA chief visited Moscow this month for Syria talks: US

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Moscow: CIA director John Brennan visited Moscow in early March to discuss Syria and put the case for the departure of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, a US official said today.

While meeting Russian officials, the spy agency chief “reiterated the US government’s consistent support for a genuine political transition in Syria, and the need for Assad’s departure,” the US official told AFP.

Brennan also stressed “the importance of Russia and the Assad regime following through on their agreements to implement the cessation of hostilities in Syria,” the US official said.

Russian deputy foreign minister Oleg Syromolotov confirmed Brennan’s visit earlier today, telling journalists that “the fact that Brennan was here was not hidden,” Interfax news agency reported.

“I know for sure that he was at the Federal Security Service (FSB),” Syromolotov added referring to the successor to the Soviet era KGB.

Syromolotov said Brennan did not visit the foreign ministry but did meet several other officials.

The senior diplomat denied that Brennan’s visit was linked to Russia’s decision announced on March 14 to withdraw most of its forces from Syria, calling the events “absolutely unconnected.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that he could not comment, adding that Brennan had “no contacts with the Kremlin”.

In November last year Brennan said in Washington that the CIA had been working closely with Russia to discuss the threat of the Islamic State group “despite the policy difference we may have in Syria and Ukraine.

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