By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Syria's government is incapable of doing its job properly, a senior Russian lawmaker and ally of Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, in a sign that Moscow is trying to distance itself from President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia has used its U.N. Security Council veto to thwart Western and Arab efforts to force its longstanding ally Assad from power, but the deputy's remarks hinted at growing Russian frustration with his failure to end the bloodshed in Syria.
"We have shared and do share the opinion that the existing government in Syria should carry out its functions. But time has shown that this task is beyond its strength," Vladimir Vasilyev, who heads President Putin's party group in the State Duma lower house was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
It said Vasilyev, a deputy speaker in the Duma, had told a British parliamentary delegation that Russia was doing its best to help resolve the conflict in Syria but its influence on the Syrian leadership was limited.
He was speaking shortly before talks were due to start in Dublin between involving Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.
"We have tried to create conditions for the internal forces in Syria to be able to get the situation under control," Vasilyev was quoted as saying.
"Unfortunately, by no means does our position decide everything - our influence on the Syrian leadership is very limited."
Russia says Assad's fate cannot be decided outside Syria and that he must not be forced from power against the will of the Syrian people. But Moscow has repeatedly said Syria's fate is not tied to one man and appears to be trying to position itself for his potential exit from power.
Moscow has said repeatedly that the Syrian government is ultimately responsible for overall security in the country. It has also criticised Assad for his handling of the crisis, which began with a clampdown on pro-democracy protests but grew into civil war and has killed more than 40,000 people.
After talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, Putin said that "new, fresh ideas" about how to end the crisis had emerged and the Kremlin said they would be discussed further by Russian and Turkish diplomats.