Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Russia warns West against military action in Syria

Syria's powerful ally Russia said Wednesday it would block any attempt by the West to secure U.N. support for the use of force against the regime in Damascus, which is under intense international pressure to end its deadly crackdown on dissent.

It was one of Moscow's strongest statements of support yet for authoritarian Syrian President Bashar Assad. And as one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Russia can veto any council resolution that would authorize military intervention in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country's draft of a U.N. Security Council resolution on the violence in Syria, which was circulated at the U.N. on Monday, aimed to make it explicitly clear that nothing could justify foreign military interference. However, Western diplomats said the draft fell short of their demand for strong condemnation of Assad's crackdown on civilians.

"If some intend to use force at all cost ... we can hardly prevent that from happening," Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow. "But let them do it at their own initiative on their own conscience. They won't get any authorization from the U.N. Security Council."

Russia has been a strong ally of Syria since Soviet times, when the country was led by the president's father Hafez Assad. Nevertheless, Russian officials last fall hosted prominent Syrian opposition leaders in Moscow in a bid to sponsor talks.

Syria's regime has grown increasingly isolated over the past 10 months as it waged a brutal military crackdown on an anti-government uprising inspired by the Arab Spring revolts across the region. The U.N. says the violence has killed more than 5,400 people since March. Read More