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Russia and the West lock horns over Syria

President Putin offered no indication that Russia will support a UN Security Council resolution backed by the US, Britain, and France that would open the door for military intervention.

By Correspondent / July 17, 2012

Russian President Vladimir Putin (r.) shakes hands with United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan in Moscow, Tuesday, July 17.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

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Moscow

Hopes for a diplomatic compromise between Russia and the West over any kind of an orderly transition from the regime of Bashar al-Assad petered out Tuesday – amid fulsome support for peace and civic accord in Syria from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Meeting in the Kremlin with UN envoy Kofi Annan, even as fighting raged in the streets of Damascus, President Putin insisted that the Kremlin will "do everything" to back the faltering six-point peace plan, which envisages a cease-fire, UN observers on the ground, and talks between rebels and regime over a transitional government.

"From the very start, from the first steps, we supported and continue to support your efforts aimed at restoring civil peace," Putin told Mr. Annan, according to Russian news agencies. "We will do everything that depends on us to support your efforts," he added.

But the Kremlin leader offered no indication that Russia will support a UN Security Council resolution to be put forward Wednesday. The proposed resolution, backed by the US, Britain, and France, would extend the UN observer mission by 45 days – the mandate is otherwise set to expire on Friday – but would put future implementation of the Annan plan under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which might open the door to the legal use of outside force.

Russia wants the UN observer team's mandate renewed without any penalties against Assad for use of heavy armor and helicopter gunships in crowded urban areas.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of employing "blackmail," by threatening to block any renewal of the UN observers' mandate unless Russia backed a Chapter 7 resolution on Wednesday.

Pressure on Assad

Experts say that if such a resolution comes to the floor tomorrow, Russia will almost certainly veto it. Russia has vetoed two previous Security Council resolutions because they envisaged outside pressure on Assad to step aside.

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