UN Resolution Could Spur Syria Civil War, Russia Warns

by
ryan
The Western-Arab drive to adopt a UN resolution on Syria is a "path to civil war", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has warned.

The Western-Arab drive to adopt a UN resolution on Syria is a "path to civil war", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has warned.

He said demands for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down would "not lead to a search for compromise".

The resolution will be discussed at an imminent UN Security Council meeting on the deepening Syrian crisis.

The talks come after a day of particularly heavy bloodshed and with the army on the streets in Damascus.

More than 100 people were killed across the country on Monday, including 40 civilians, said activists.

Another 20 people were killed on Tuesday, the Local Co-ordination Committee said. Such claims cannot be independently verified as the the BBC and other international media are severely restricted inside Syria.

The UN has conceded it cannot keep track of the escalating death toll, but estimates more than 5,400 people have been killed since the unrest began last March.

On Saturday, the Arab League announced it was suspending its month-old monitoring mission in Syria because of an upsurge of violence.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that Russia would be increasingly isolated across the Arab World if it vetoed the UN resolution.

Meanwhile, the US director of national intelligence has said it is only a matter of time before Mr Assad loses his grip on power.

"I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria," James Clapper told a Senate hearing, but said the process could take a long time.

Regime change 'obsession'

The latest draft of the resolution strongly condemns violence and human rights abuses by the Syrian government and calls on countries to stop the flow of arms to Syria, without imposing an arms embargo.

At the core of the plan is an endorsement of an Arab League peace plan that would see President Assad delegate power to his deputy to oversee a political transition.

Moscow, which has maintained close ties with Damascus and has a naval base in the country, says this amounts to regime change and has criticised the document's threat of unspecified further measures if Syria does not comply.

France says 10 of the 15 countries on the Security Council now support the resolution, taking it past the threshold needed to force a full vote.

Russia, one of the five permanent council members, has already said it will veto the action, but the BBC's UN correspondent Barbara Plett says Western nations still hope to convince it to at least abstain.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said some countries were "obsessed" with regime change in the Middle East region.

"If this vigour to change regimes persists we are going to witness a very bad situation, much, much broader than just Syria, Libya or Egypt or any other single country," he said.

Moscow had never insisted that Mr Assad should remaining in power, he said, but believed that decision "has to be Syrian". He said third parties were encouraging Syria's opposition to "crawl away from this dialogue".

Syrian state news agency Sana quoted a foreign ministry source as saying that the Damascus government would "defeat the policies of chaos".

"We regret that those statements are still coming from countries accustomed to making the Middle East a field for their foolishness and failing experiments," the source added.

Running battlefield

On Monday, Syria's army said it had regained control of some Damascus suburbs recently held by rebel forces.

The interior ministry said troops had arrested or "finished off" a large number of "terrorists", capturing large quantities of weapons.

Activists say security forces have also moved into the mountain town of Rankous, just to the north of Damascus, which had been surrounded and bombarded for nearly a week.

The city of Homs, further north, saw the highest toll on Monday with 72 dead, activists say - victims of bombs and snipers. Sectarian killings and abductions are also reported.

Parts of Homs are reported to have become a running battlefield, with the government unable to restore control over several quarters where armed rebels have been increasingly active.

There were reports of an oil pipeline explosion near the city on Tuesday - one resident told Reuters it had been caused by a tank bombardment.