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Russia and the West lock horns over Syria

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But the Kremlin leader offered no indication that Russia will support a UN Security Council resolution to be put forward Wednesday. The proposed resolution, backed by the US, Britain, and France, would extend the UN observer mission by 45 days – the mandate is otherwise set to expire on Friday – but would put future implementation of the Annan plan under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which might open the door to the legal use of outside force.

Russia wants the UN observer team's mandate renewed without any penalties against Assad for use of heavy armor and helicopter gunships in crowded urban areas.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of employing "blackmail," by threatening to block any renewal of the UN observers' mandate unless Russia backed a Chapter 7 resolution on Wednesday.

Pressure on Assad

Experts say that if such a resolution comes to the floor tomorrow, Russia will almost certainly veto it. Russia has vetoed two previous Security Council resolutions because they envisaged outside pressure on Assad to step aside.

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