MOSCOW - Russia said on Wednesday that a "decisive battle" was under way in Syria.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also warned that passing UN Security Council sanctions against Syria would amount to direct support for rebels and could draw the country into civil war.

"The battle for the capital, the decisive fight (is under way in Syria)," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

"Adopting a resolution against this backdrop would amount to a direct support for the revolutionary movement. If we are talking about a revolution then the UN Security Council has no place in this."

Syrian President Bashar Assad would not freely cede power, Lavrov said, warning Western powers that their support for rebels would only lead to an escalation of the bloodshed in Syria.

"Instead of calming the opposition, some partners are fostering a further escalation," he said.

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"It is a dead-end policy to support the opposition. Assad will not go on his own and our Western partners don't know what to do about that."

With violence rising, the West wants Moscow to drop its support for Assad. Along with China, Moscow has vetoed action against the president at the UN Security Council.

But before talks with international peace negotiator Kofi Annan in Moscow on Tuesday, Lavrov signaled no change in Moscow's position.

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