Russia will keep shielding Assad at UN: Diplomat

The move came as Syrian forces intensified their crackdown, which has killed thousands of people and drawn strong international condemnation.

Updated: Feb 11, 2012, 00:10 AM IST

Moscow: A senior Russian diplomat signalled
on Friday that Moscow will again use its veto power at the United Nations to block any resolution aimed at ousting Syrian
President Bashar Assad from power.

Last weekend, Russia voted "no" at the UN Security
Council for a second time in four months to block a resolution
urging Assad to step down over his crackdown on an
11-month-old uprising.

The move came as Syrian forces intensified their
crackdown, which has killed thousands of people and drawn
strong international condemnation.

Russia said it would block any UN resolution that could
pave the way for a replay of what happened in Libya.

In that case, Russia abstained from a vote, which cleared
the way for months of NATO air force attacks that helped
Libyans end Muammar Gaddafi`s regime and kill the Libyan
leader.

Syria is Russia`s last remaining ally in the Middle East,
and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today
that his government will thwart any attempts by the West and
major Arab powers to oust Assad by using a UN resolution.

"If our foreign partners don`t understand that, we will
have to use strong means again and again to call them back to
reality," he was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news
agency.

Today, Russian lawmakers also supported shielding Assad`s
regime from international sanctions.

In the lower house of parliament, the lawmakers
unanimously passed a statement warning against foreign
military intervention in Syria and accusing the West and Arab
nations of planning a regime change there.

Alexei Pushkov, the head of the State Duma`s foreign
affairs committee, said Russia strongly opposes what he called
another military "operation to promote democracy." Just before
the legislative session began, he said: "We are against using
humanitarian reasons to change the regime."

The Duma`s statement emphasised that the UN Security
Council must not side with the opposition in Syria`s internal
conflict by demanding that Assad`s regime step down.

Moscow has maintained close ties with Damascus since the
Cold War, when Syria was led by the current leader`s father,
Hafez Assad.

PTI