Russia vows to block Western intervention in Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s powerful allies in Russia vowed Wednesday to block any Western attempts to intervene militarily in Syria as Damascus fights off an increasingly chaotic 10-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad.

The support came as Assad was showing fresh confidence that he can ride out the uprising with the help of a small — but influential — set of friends in Russia, China and Iran.

Iran also gave Syria another boost Wednesday. According to Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency, with the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Brig. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, said Assad’s government enjoys public support and won’t collapse.

Assad, a 46-year-old authoritarian leader who inherited power from his father in 2000, has made two public appearances last week, where he vowed to strike back with an “iron hand” against the “conspiracy” behind the uprising. Assad has rarely turned up in public during the uprising and his appearances showed he was still firmly in charge.

But protesters show no sign of retreat despite the brutal military crackdown that the U.N. says has killed more than 5,400 people since March. And the uprising is turning increasingly militarized as more frustrated regime opponents and army defectors arm themselves and fight back against the regime.

The comments by Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov were one of Moscow’s strongest statements of support yet for Assad. As one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Russia can veto any Council resolution that would authorize military intervention in Syria.

“If some intend to use force at all cost ... we can hardly prevent that from happening,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow. “But let them do it at their own initiative on their own conscience. They won’t get any authorization from the U.N. Security Council.”

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