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Russia Sends Aircraft to Evacuate its Citizens from Syria

Russia says it is sending two planes to Lebanon to evacuate its citizens who wish to flee the conflict in Syria.

A spokeswoman for Russia's Emergencies Ministry (Irina Rossius) said more than 100 Russians were expected to board the planes after traveling overland from Syria. She said Russia is sending the planes so that all Russians who want to leave Syria can do so.

It is not clear whether the flights are the beginning of a longer evacuation operation.

Russia is one of Syria's strongest allies and the move to evacuate its citizens is the clearest sign yet that Moscow may be preparing for the possibility that President Bashar al-Assad's government could fall.

Also Monday, Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a car bombing in Syria's capital Damascus, as well as another car bomb in central Syria that killed at least 30 people.

The United Nations says at least 60,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011.

Earlier Monday, Syria's opposition postponed forming a transitional government. After a meeting in Istanbul, opposition leaders said they have created a five-person committee to consult with opposition forces, the Free Syrian Army and what the opposition called "friendly" countries before making proposals on an interim body.

The Syrian National Coalition was formed in November and has since been recognized by more than 110 countries as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. It is calling for President Assad, who has been in power for 12 years, to step down.

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