UN Security Council - AP - January 13, 2010
The United Nations Security Council Photo by AP
Text size

Russia's foreign minister sternly warned Washington Saturday that any attempt to put a draft resolution on Syria to vote at the United Nations would lead to "scandal," a blunt warning that Russia is prepared to use its veto power.

Sergey Lavrov said in an interview broadcast on Russian state television Rossiya that Russia had submitted its amendments to the Western-backed draft. He said that Russia hopes that "bias will not prevail over common sense."

"If they want another scandal at the UN Security Council, we wouldn't be able to stop them," Lavrov said, voicing hope that the United States wouldn't put the draft to vote.

The UN Security Council is expected to meet Saturday morning to take up a Syria resolution.

Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying in Munich on Saturday that he and foreign intelligence service chief Mikhail Fradkov will travel to Syria on Tuesday to meet President Assad.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had "vigorous" talks with Lavrov in Munich on Saturday about his objections to the UN Security Council draft resolution, and she still hoped Moscow will vote "yes," a U.S. official said.

She and Sergei Lavrov agreed on the urgency of the situation in Syria, and Clinton made it clear she believed the vote should go ahead on Saturday as scheduled, said a senior U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The secretary and foreign minister had a very vigorous discussion. They agreed that the situation on the ground is urgent, given the violence," the official told reporters after the meeting took place at the Munich Security Conference.

"The secretary made clear that we feel, that the United States feels strongly that the UN Security Council should vote today," said the official, adding that the "action" now moves to the UN headquarters in New York.

Russia and China, which wield veto power at the Security Council, have blocked previous Western attempts to impose sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime over its crackdown on protests. The UN has said that more than 5,400 people have been killed in violence since March. Hundreds more have been killed since that tally was announced, and activists say 200 died in the city of Homs on Saturday.

Russia is opposing any UN call for regime change or a military intervention in Syria, its last remaining ally in the region.

The U.S.and its partners have ruled out military action but want the UN body to endorse an Arab League plan that calls on Assad to hand power over to Syria's vice president.

 Clinton spoke with Lavrov by phone on Friday, and before meeting him on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Ahead of that, Clinton told the conference she was hopeful that the UN would be able to come to an agreement later in the day:

"As a tyrant in Damascus brutalizes his own people, America and Europe stand shoulder to shoulder. We are united, alongside the Arab League, in demanding an end to the bloodshed and a democratic future for Syria. And we are hopeful that at 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in New York the Security Council will express the will of the international community," she said.