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Russia says prepared to veto Syria resolution

Russia warned on Wednesday it was prepared to use its veto to block a Western-backed UN resolution on Syria but said it was encouraged that other world powers were taking its red lines into account.

The foreign ministry said it did not expect a vote at the United Nations on the resolution calling for an end to the bloodshed in the next few days, amid frantic diplomacy as the West piles pressure on Moscow to support the text.

“If the text is unacceptable then we will vote against,” Moscow’s envoy to the United Nations was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

“We will not allow a text to be adopted that we consider to be incorrect and will lead to a deepening of the conflict. We are openly telling our partners this.”

Russia has exasperated the West by refusing to back the resolution proposed by Morocco and backed by Western powers calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down and seeking an end to violence that has left 6,000 people dead.

Churkin said that Russia was pushing for a text “in which it would be clear that no foreign military intervention will be used in the context of the Syria crisis.”

On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov had warned that the resolution could risk paving the way towards civil war in Syria, where protests against Assad’s rule first erupted in mid-March

Russia, the main foreign weapons supplier to Syria, was also strongly against the inclusion of even the “hint of a (weapons) embargo” against Damascus in the UN resolution, Churkin said Wednesday.

The West was already deeply troubled in January when a Saint Vincent-flagged cargo ship, the Chariot, docked in Syria after a brief stopover in Cyprus, reportedly carrying a supply of Russian arms.

Russia in October vetoed a Western-backed draft resolution on Syria along with its Security Council ally and fellow veto holder China, which is usually happy to follow Moscow’s defiance while being far less talkative in public.

But Churkin said he was encouraged that the West was now at least listening to its position, in a possible echo of a statement by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe that Russia was showing a “less negative” attitude.

“It encourages me when our partners know about our red lines and say that we will reach a consensus. I think that they are ready to take account of our red lines,” said Churkin.

Gatilov told the Interfax news agency Wednesday that diplomacy was in progress to “find a text that is acceptable to all sides and would help find a political solution for the situation in Syria”.

“Therefore there is going to be no vote in the next days,” he said.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov had spoken by phone to US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to discuss Syria “in the context of the debates at the Security Council”.

Analysts have said that Russia is defying the West despite the escalating violence in Syria as it fears Assad’s departure would cost Moscow its last remaining ally in the region.

The Kremlin appears concerned to prevent a repeat of the conflict in Libya where a NATO air campaign led to the ousting of its ally Moamer Kadhafi and the loss of key arms contracts for the Russian weapons industry.

Amnesty International said in a statement Wednesday that Russia’s threats to use its veto over Syria were “utterly irresponsible” and Moscow bore a “heavy responsibility for allowing the brutal crackdown” by the Assad regime.

The president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly Jean-Claude Mignon urged Russia to back UN action aimed at halting the killing in Syria, saying “here we are confronted with a humanitarian tragedy”.