By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A senior Russian official said on Wednesday there was no chance a Western-Arab draft U.N. Security Council resolution could pass without language clearly ruling out potential military intervention, the Interfax news agency reported.
Vladimir Chizhov's remarks were the latest suggestion that Russia would veto the resolution, which supports an Arab League plan calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to cede power, if it is not changed to take Moscow's concerns into account.
The draft "is missing the most important thing: a clear clause ruling out the possibility that the resolution could be used to justify military intervention in Syrian affairs from outside. For this reason I see no chance this draft could be adopted," said Chizhov, Russia's envoy to the European Union.
Russia has repeatedly warned it would prevent the Security Council from stamping its approval on potential military intervention in Syria, where the United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed since Assad's government began a crackdown on pro-democracy unrest nearly a year ago.
Last year, Russia accused the United States and other NATO nations of overstepping the bounds of a March 2011 Security Council resolution that authorized an air campaign in Libya and using it to oust longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi. Moscow allowed the resolution to pass by abstaining in a vote.
Arab and Western states are urging the Security Council to act quickly on the Syria resolution and have tried to convince Moscow that its aim is not military action.
Western states want a vote this week in the Security Council, but Russia has warned that rushing the resolution through would doom it to failure.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the council on Tuesday that the resolution "does not call for military action and could not be used to authorize it." French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe described the idea of such intervention as a myth.
Chizhov's remarks suggest Russia, a close strategic ally of Assad and a major arms supplier to Syria, would not settle for such assurances and will press for clear language on the issue.
Moscow says the West took advantage of fuzzy wording in the Libya resolution to turn a mandate to protect civilians into a push for regime change that led to Gaddafi's overthrow.
Russian diplomats have also suggested Moscow could use its veto if the expression of support for the Arab League plan that calls for Assad to cede power is not removed from the draft.
In addition, Russia has voiced concern that the current draft's threat of "further measures" if Syria fails to implement the resolution could lead to sanctions, which it opposes.
Russia and China joined forces in October to veto a Western-drafted resolution that would have condemned Assad's government and threatened possible sanctions.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Mark Heinrich)