Russia pushing Syria into civil war
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday criticised Russia's resistance to UN action on Syria, warning that its policy of propping up the Assad regime could contribute to a civil war.
The Russians "are telling me they don't want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war," she told a mainly student audience on a visit to Copenhagen.
She warned that unless unchecked, the deadly violence in Syria could lead to civil war or even develop into a proxy war because of Iran's support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon also warned yesterday that Syria risks a "catastrophic civil war".
"The massacres of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war, a civil war from which the country would never recover."
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels have warned they will resume their defence of civilians if the government does not return to the peace plan by today.
Hillary said she had spoken on Wednesday with the international envoy on Syria, Kofi Annan, who is trying to expand his mandate to be able to deal more effectively with Damascus.
"We have to bring the Russians on board because the dangers we face are terrible," said Hillary, who is in Denmark on the first leg of a Scandinavian tour.
She said the absence of UN support for action in Syria, due mainly to Russia's opposition, "makes it harder" to respond to the crisis, as the international community did last year in Libya.
"Remember you have Iran deeply embedded in Syria -- their military are coaching the Syrian military. The Quds Force, which is a branch of the military, is helping them set up these sectarian militias.
"We know it actually could get much worse than it is," she said.
A massacre last week of more than 100 people in the city of Houla, allegedly by government-backed forces, and the discovery of new execution-style killing since then has raised the pressure for international action.
But Russia has adamantly refused to go against its close ally Syria with President Vladimir Putin warning that Moscow will not change its position under pressure.
"Russia's position is well-known. It is balanced and consistent and completely logical," Interfax quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
Expanding on her earlier remarks about Russia, she said the United States was still focused on supporting Annan's efforts rather than going outside the United Nations.
Many of her conversations over the next few days would be held "with particular attention paid to the Russians," she said.
"They are vociferous in their claiming that they are providing a stabilising influence. I reject that. I think frankly they are in effect propping up the regime."
And battles raged in Syria as regime troops and rebel forces clashed across the country yesterday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that at least 14 people were killed, including a young boy.