MOSCOW: Russia and the United States began talks on the Syrian conflict in a bid to narrow their differences before a meeting between their presidents, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, in Mexico this month.

Fred Hof, the State Department's special envoy to the Syrian opposition, met with Russian deputy foreign ministers, Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, in Moscow. The sides ''exchanged opinions about ways to facilitate a peaceful settlement in Syria with an emphasis on mobilising international support in the interest of implementing Kofi Annan's plan by all sides,'' the Foreign Ministry said, adding ''practical aspects'' of a Russian proposal for a conference on Syria were also discussed.

But talks were marred when a deadly blast rocked a Damascus suburb, claiming the lives of two security forces members, among 10 killed across Syria yesterday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bloodshed came as people took to the streets to demonstrate against the regime of the President, Bashar al-Assad, after the weekly Muslim prayers, the main day of protests in the 15-month uprising.

Another explosion in front of a police station in the north-western city of Idlib killed five people, including two members of the security forces, the Britain-based observatory said.

Russia and the US are in disagreement over Russia's initiative to involve Iran in talks to end the bloodshed and find a possible successor to Mr Assad.

Mr Putin has picked up ''positive'' feedback from France, China and Iran on a proposal to gather all nations that have sway over Mr Assad and the opposition to come together for talks, the Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Thursday.

Still, the initiative was rejected by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, even after it won the support of the UN special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan.