Russia indicated on Tuesday it will veto a draft resolution on Syria that calls on President Bashar Assad to step down and provides for “further measures” if he refuses.
“Russia will not support anything that is imposed on Syria,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with an Australian television news show, Lateline.
The European-Arab draft, to be presented to the UN Security Council in two weeks, is due to be debated at the Security Council later on Tuesday.
Russia has been one of Assad’s staunchest supporters during the ten-month-long uprising against his regime. Moscow has proposed its own draft UN resolution on Syria, but Western members of the Security Council have criticized it for being too soft.
A number of Western countries have been trying to persuade Moscow to support the resolution, which effectively gives the go-ahead to a military operation in the country.
Lavrov warned the resolution could lead to "another Libya", which would be disastrous.
He also added that he will not persuade Assad to resign and that "regime change is not our job."
He went on to dismiss the view that Russia will support Assad no matter what.
“We’re not President Assad’s friends or allies,” he said.
However, he defended Russian arms supplies to the regime.
“We signed some contracts and contracts must be implemented,” he said, stressing that “we are arming the constitutional government: We don't approve of what it is doing, using force against demonstrators but we're not picking sides, we're implementing our commercial contractual obligations.”
The arms Russia is selling to Syria “are not used against demonstrators but to ensure Syria’s defense,” the Russian minister said.
The head of Russia’s state-controlled arms exporter Rostekhnologii, Sergei Chemezov, said last Wednesday that Moscow faced losing its leading position in the Middle East and North African arms market if it failed to maintain arms deliveries to Syria.
Earlier on Tuesday Lavrov said he was amazed by the hullabaloo over his failure to discuss a UN Syria resolution with US State Secretary Hillary Clinton.
Clinton tried to reach Lavrov by telephone for about 24 hours but he was "apparently unavailable" while on visit to Australia, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Lavrov said he was busy negotiating with his Australian partners, adding that he and Clinton would talk later.
At least 5,400 people have been killed in the government's 10-month crackdown on protesters, according to the UN. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda and say more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed.