Putin says Syria's Assad is open to working with some rebels

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By Denis Dyomkin and Maria Tsvetkova SOCHI, Russia/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad had told him he was ready to talk to armed opposition groups if they are genuinely committed to dialogue and to combating Islamic State. Speaking a day after Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow for talks with Putin -- underlining Moscow's new role as a central player in Syria's conflict -- Putin said the two men had talked about the need for a political solution. Some Western governments have portrayed Russia as an obstacle to a political deal, especially since it started air strikes on Islamist groups in Syria opposed to Assad, including some backed by the United States and its allies.