Russia says it won’t back UN calls for Assad to go

Russia says it won’t back UN calls for Assad to go

Russia says it won’t back UN calls for Assad to go

Syrian soldiers, who have defected to join the Free Syrian Army, hold up their rifles and wave Syrian independence flags during a protest against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Khalidieh near Homs Jan 26. REUTERS photo

Russia said Jan. 27 it would not support any U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave power, warning that an early vote on a new Western-backed text was doomed to failure. 

“We cannot support any U.N. 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.”

The Security Council, where Russia wields veto powers, was due to meet later Jan. 27, to consider a new draft giving strong backing to an Arab League initiative for ending the crisis. Nations behind the measures -- which besides Britain, France, Germany include Arab nations such as Morocco and Qatar -- have been pushing for a U.N. Security Council vote next week. However Gatilov criticized the resolution for leaving open the threat of sanctions and even possible military involvement, should Assad fail to quickly meet its demands.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Revolutionary General Council has said a strong blast took place in Douma, giving no further details. Two other explosions also occurred in Katana neighborhood in the capital, while a deadly car bomb also hit a security checkpoint at the entrance to the northwestern city of Idlib Jan. 27. There was no immediate casualty count.

The head of the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria said Friday that violence there had risen “in a significant way” in three days, particularly in the flashpoint cities of Homs, Hama and Idlib. “The violence in Syria increased significantly between January 24 and 27, especially in Homs, Hama and Idlib,” General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi said in a statement. The statement came as Syrian forces raided Homs, where dozens have been killed. Armed forces loyal to Assad barraged residential buildings with mortars and machine-gun fire, killing at least 30 people, including a family of women and children in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, activists said.

Saudi to recognize Syrian National Council: report 

In a related development, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will recognize the Syrian National Council (SNC) as the “official representative” of the Syrian people, a senior member of the opposition group said in remarks published Jan. 27.

 “Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told an SNC delegation he met in Cairo last week the kingdom will recognize the Council as the official representative of the Syrian people,” SNC executive council member Ahmad Ramadan told Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper. 

Meanwhile, after the unrest in the country increased, the leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, effectively abandoned his headquarters in the Syrian capital, Damascus, according to diplomatic and intelligence sources Jan. 27. 

Iran’s official IRNA news agency has said gunmen in Syria have kidnapped 11 Iranian pilgrims traveling by road from Turkey to Damascus. Friday’s report says a bus with 49 Iranians was stopped after leaving the town of Halab Jan. 26.

Compiled from AFP AA and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.