Middle East

UN resolution could spur Syria civil war, Russia warns

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMore than 100 people reported were killed in violence on Monday

The Western-Arab drive to adopt a UN resolution on Syria is a "path to civil war", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has warned.

He said demands for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down would "not lead to a search for compromise".

The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss its response to the deepening Syrian crisis.

Qatar's prime minister urged council members to act to stop the Syrian "killing machine".

"It is part of your responsibility under the [UN] charter,'' said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.

More than 100 people were killed across Syria on Monday, including 40 civilians, said activists.

Another 30 people were killed on Tuesday, the Local Co-ordination Committee (LCC) said, including two children.

Such claims cannot be independently verified as the the BBC and other international media are severely restricted inside Syria.

The UN has conceded it cannot keep track of the escalating death toll, but estimates more than 5,400 people have been killed since the unrest began last March.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that Russia would be increasingly isolated across the Arab World if it vetoed the UN resolution.

Meanwhile, senior US officials have said it is only a matter of time before Mr Assad loses his grip on power.

"I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria," intelligence chief James Clapper told a Senate hearing, but said the process could take a long time.

Regime change 'obsession'

The latest draft of the resolution strongly condemns violence and human rights abuses by the Syrian government and calls on countries to stop the flow of arms to Syria, without imposing an arms embargo.

At the core of the plan is an endorsement of an Arab League peace plan that would see President Assad delegate power to his deputy to oversee a political transition.

Moscow, which has maintained close ties with Damascus and has a naval base in the country, says this amounts to regime change and has criticised the document's threat of unspecified further measures if Syria does not comply.

As one of the five permanent council members, Russia has already said it will veto the draft, but the BBC's UN correspondent Barbara Plett says Western nations still hope to convince it to at least abstain.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said some countries were "obsessed" with regime change in the Middle East region.

"If this vigour to change regimes persists we are going to witness a very bad situation, much, much broader than just Syria, Libya or Egypt or any other single country," he said.

Moscow had never insisted that Mr Assad should remaining in power, he said, but believed that decision "has to be Syrian". He said third parties were encouraging Syria's opposition to "crawl away from this dialogue".

Running battlefield

On Monday, Syria's army said it had regained control of some Damascus suburbs recently held by rebel forces.

The interior ministry said troops had arrested or "finished off" a large number of "terrorists", capturing large quantities of weapons.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWilliam Hague: "I think Russia has to understand that if it continues to take this position it will be increasingly isolated"

Activists say security forces have also moved into the mountain town of Rankous, just to the north of Damascus, which had been surrounded and bombarded for nearly a week.

The city of Homs, further north, saw the highest toll on Monday with 72 dead, activists say - victims of bombs and snipers. Sectarian killings and abductions are also reported.

Parts of Homs are reported to have become a running battlefield, with the government unable to restore control over several quarters where armed rebels have been increasingly active.

On Tuesday, LCC said 30 people had died across the country - 14 in Idlib, 10 in Homs, two in Deraa and four in and around Damascus.

There were also reports of an oil pipeline explosion near the city - one resident told Reuters it had been caused by a tank bombardment.

Syria's ambassador to Russia, Riad Hadda, has repeated the assertion that the government is tackling "armed terrorists" acting under a foreign plot. He said anyone pushing for sanctions was supporting a "mutiny".

Meanwhile, the BBC has seen a leaked copy of the Arab League's report into its troubled monitoring mission, which was suspended last Saturday amid the upsurge in violence.

The report outlines the problems the mission faced, including hostile officials and members of the public, but also the monitors themselves.

It says many of them were too elderly, inexperienced or poorly equipped to fulfil their obligations or had "underestimated the burden of the responsibility with which they were entrusted".

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites