Syrian soldiers who defected to join the Free Syrian Army are seen among demonstrators during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Khalidieh, near Homs January 26, 2012. (Photo:Reuters)
Russia said Friday it would not support any UN Security Council resolution calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go, warning that an early vote on a new Western-backed text was doomed to failure.
"We cannot support any UN resolution calling for the support of Assad's resignation," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax, adding that a quick vote on the Western-Arab draft was "destined for failure".
Russia and China placed a rare double veto on the first draft resolution last year, which placed the blame for the violence directly on al-Assad.
The Security Council, where Russia wields veto powers, was due to gather later Friday to consider a new draft giving strong backing to an Arab League initiative for ending a crisis that the United Nations estimates has claimed more than 5,400 lives.
Nations behind the measures -- which besides Britain, France, Germany include Arab nations such as Morocco and Qatar -- have been pushing for a UN Security Council vote next week.
Gatilov said a quick vote "was destined to failure because we have already clearly expressed our position, as have our Chinese partners."
Showing little movement from Russia's initial tough stance on the measure, Gatilov also criticised the resolution for leaving open the threat of sanctions and even possible military involvement should Assad fail to quickly meet its demands.
Moscow still enjoys close trade ties with its Soviet-era ally, signing a new military jet delivery contract with Damascus this month and still leasing one of its ports for its navy.
Russia has proposed its own draft resolution that assigns equal blame for the violence on both Assad and the opposition, an option dismissed by the West.
The Western-backed draft resolution, obtained by AFP, "condemns the continued widespread and gross violations of human rights" and makes a new call for an immediate halt to the government crackdown.
It also hints at sanctions, stating that it "takes note" of Arab League economic measures ordered on November 27 and "encourages all states to adopt similar steps and fully to cooperate with the League of Arab States in the implementation of its measures".