Russia's President; Dmitry Medvedev
Russia told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday it would veto a disputed draft resolution backing an Arab League plan to end the violence in Syria if it were put to a vote as early as Friday, a Western diplomat said.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was addressing a closed-door meeting of the council that some envoys had said was close to agreement on the draft, said the diplomat, speaking on condition he was not identified.
The most controversial section of the text is a phrase saying the council "fully supports" the Arab plan, which among other things calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside. Moscow says that amounts to "regime change."
Despite the Russian objections, European and Arab drafters of the resolution were still likely to prepare a vote-ready version of the text later on Thursday, said the diplomat, who was present at the council session.
Such a move does not necessarily mean a vote is imminent and it was not clear when the resolution's sponsors would call for one. Colombian Ambassador Nestor Osorio told reporters council discussions would continue on Friday.
Before the meeting, Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon told reporters the 15-nation council was "two words away" from agreement on an amended version of a European-Arab draft resolution circulated to the council by Morocco.
But that view was disputed by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who said, "That's not my impression."
Russia has led opposition to the draft resolution, which seeks to end 10 months of bloodshed in Syria as security forces have cracked down on anti-Assad protesters. Moscow says it will not allow a repeat of a March, 2011 resolution on Libya that led NATO to help rebels overthrow leader Muammar Gaddafi.
While Churkin has said agreement on some kind of Security Council resolution on Syria is possible, he said earlier this week it could not be voted on until next Tuesday at the earliest. European and Arab countries, however, have been pushing for a vote sooner than that, perhaps on Friday.