MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Britain on Wednesday that the UN Security Council should not consider a draft resolution in response to an alleged chemical arms attack in Syria before UN inspectors report on their findings there.
Britain wants Russia and the other Security Council members to adopt a resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack that Western states blame on his government, and authorizing measures to protect civilians.
During a phone call initiated by Britain, Lavrov told Foreign Secretary William Hague it is necessary "to wait for the results of the work of the mission of UN inspectors who are currently in Syria", the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Russia says it suspects rebels may have carried out a deadly gas attack last week to provoke outside armed intervention, and Lavrov has warned the West that any use of force without UN approval would violate international law.
Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Russia, along with China, has used its veto power in the Security Council three times to block Western-backed resolutions condemning Assad and intended to press him to end the violence.
Russia has also said it will not allow a repeat in Syria of what happened in 2011 in Libya, where NATO air strikes helped rebels topple Muammar Gaddafi after Moscow let a UN resolution authorizing military intervention pass by abstaining.
The United States and its allies say a UN veto will not stop them. Western diplomats called the proposed resolution a manoeuvre to isolate Moscow and rally a coalition behind air strikes. Arab states, NATO and Turkey also condemned Assad.
Washington has repeatedly said that President Barack Obama has not yet made up his mind on what action he will order.
A senior US official said strikes could last several days and would involve other armed forces: "We're talking to a number of different allies regarding participation in a possible kinetic strike," the administration official said on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and signalled their shared opposition to military intervention in Syria war, the Kremlin said after the leaders spoke by phone.
"Both sides consider the use of chemical weapons by anyone intolerable," Putin's press service said in a statement about the conversation on Wednesday, which it said Iran initiated.
"Taking into account the calls being voiced for external military intervention in the Syrian conflict, they also stressed the need to seek a path to a resolution through exclusively political and diplomatic means," it said.
Western armies are expected to wait until the UN experts withdraw. Their initial 14-day mandate expires in four days, and Ban said they need four days work.