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Russia: Why the fury over UN veto on Syria?

Responding to global criticism of Russia's UN veto, Russia's foreign minister said the vote was 'hasty.' He will travel to Damascus Tuesday to meet President Assad. 

By Correspondent / February 6, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (r.) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet for bilateral talks at the Security Conference on Saturday, in Munich, Germany.

Frank Augstein/AP

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Moscow

Uncharacteristically defensive over Russia's veto of a UN Security Council resolution that would have urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that he will travel to Damascus Tuesday to urge Mr. Assad to stabilize his strife-torn country through rapid democratic reforms.

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Mr. Lavrov and other Russian officials were in full damage control mode Monday after a weekend that saw a global outpouring of criticism directed at Russia and China for blocking unified action on the growing crisis in Syria.

The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, called the vetoes "disgusting," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced them as a "travesty," and crowds of protesters in the Lebanese capital of Beirut and the Libyan capital of Tripoli staged furious demonstrations outside the Russian embassies.

"There are some in the West who have given evaluations of the vote on Syria in the United Nations Security Council that sound, I would say, indecent and perhaps on the verge of hysterical," Lavrov said. "Those who get angry are rarely right."

Lavrov insisted that Russia was willing to come to a consensus with other Security Council members, but that its proposed amendments were shot down  and the resolution was put to a vote Saturday in a "hasty" way that seemed to invite Russia's veto in order to make Moscow look guilty for the ongoing violence in Syria.

"We asked them [supporters of the anti-Assad resolution] to wait a few days before putting it to a vote," while Russian officials traveled to Syria this week for consultations with Assad, Lavrov said. "But they thought it more important to transfer the blame for what is happening....  Their unwillingness to wait for us to return from Damascus is a clear case of disrespect. It is sad that the resolution met such a fate."

He added that he will go to Damascus anyway, in an effort to use Russian diplomatic leverage to pressure Assad into dialogue with his opponents.

"We've repeatedly urged Syria to speed up reforms and we are continuing to do so," Lavrov said. "But we also notice that there are those who have other goals, who are trying to use this situation to promote regime change in Syria." 

Russia as scapegoat

Several pro-government experts insisted Monday that Russia is being scapegoated for the violence in Syria because it has traditional good relations with that country that it is loathe to abandon.

They argue that the West, not Russia, is fanning the flames of sectarian civil war by recklessly backing Syria's armed opposition without any strategy for dealing with the state collapse and social catastrophe that's likely in the wake of Assad's overthrow.

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