Russia contests UN on Syria protesters, nuclear work

Moscow readies veto power as UN rebukes Syria for violent crackdown on protesters as well as covert atomic work; China also protests UN move.

United Nations flags_521 (photo credit: Istock)
United Nations flags_521
(photo credit: Istock)
As the UN Security Council resolution readied two separate rebukes on Syria on Thursday, Russia stepped up its threat to veto both a Western-backed draft condemning the country's crackdown on protesters as well as a push to report Syria for covert atomic work.
"Russia is against any UN Security Council resolution on Syria," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told journalists at a briefing in Moscow.
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The comments come as Turkish officials said on Thursday that more than 1,700 Syrians have fled to Turkey to escape the Syrian army crackdown, in another sign that Assad's struggle with protesters is disturbing Syria's neighbors.
However, Lukashevich said that "We do not believe the Syrian issue is a subject for consideration by the Security Council, let alone the adoption of some kind of resolution."
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal have floated a new draft resolution condemning Syria as the United States and its allies seek to raise the pressure on President Bashar Assad's government to end its violent crackdown on protesters.
Lukashevich stopped short of saying Russia would use its veto power as a permanent UN Security Council member to doom any Syria resolution if it comes to a vote.
Some diplomats have said they thought Moscow could be persuaded to abstain, as it did in a March vote on the resolution that authorized military intervention in Libya.
But Lukashevich said that even a discussion in the Security Council could increase tension in Syria, and that any resolution criticizing Damascus would amount to tacit support of "armed extremists" opposing the government.
"This does not fit the role of the United Nations," he said.
China was expected to join Russia in voting against a draft resolution at the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency rebuking the Arab state for three years of stonewalling of a probe into a site bombed by Israel in 2007.Also Thursday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin met with outgoing Russian Ambassador to Israel Petr Stegniy, hoping to convince the government in Moscow not to veto the upcoming UN Security Council resolution aimed at Syria's covert nuclear program.
"Syria's actions are completely contrary to the values of the free world," Rivlin said. "Not everything is political. This matter is of common interest to all parties involved. It is a shared interest of every state in the free world."
US intelligence reports have said Dair Alzour was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor intended to produce plutonium for atomic bombs before it was bombed to rubble. Syria denies the charge.
The IAEA, the Vienna-based UN atomic agency, gave independent backing to the US allegation in a report last month which said it was "very likely" to have been a reactor.
Western diplomats said they believed they still had enough support for the IAEA board to adopt the text, which would require a simple majority.