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UN Council ministers set for Syria clash

* Kofi Annan's meeting in Damascus seems to have gone nowhere

* Divide growing between Russia and West

UNITED NATIONS: The world powers are on course for a new diplomatic clash over Syria when foreign ministers from the main UN Security Council nations meet on Monday. What was intended by the British organizers of the event to be a review of the Arab Spring uprisings will be overshadowed by the divide over how to stop President Bashar al-Assad's deadly assault on opponents.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov of Russia, William Hague of Britain, Alain Juppe of France and Guido Westerwelle of Germany will be among top officials at the event. The council's failure to agree a resolution condemning the Syria violence, the worsening toll in Syria -- well over 7,500 according to the UN -- and Assad's refusal to allow humanitarian groups into the protest cities have all cast a dark cloud over preparations for Monday's meeting.

"Assad is determined not to give in and the divide is growing between Russia and the Western countries," said one senior envoy from a Security Council member.

"Kofi Annan's meeting in Damascus seems to have gone nowhere. It is difficult to see anything but new friction at this meeting," the envoy added, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. Russia and China have twice used their powers as permanent members of the Security Council to veto resolutions condemning the Syria violence. Talks on a new US-led attempt to agree a resolution have hit a dead end, though Clinton and Lavrov will meet on the sidelines of the UN meeting.

Russia and China say the Western nations only want a resolution to back regime change. Lavrov said Russia opposes "crude interference" in Syria's internal affairs, his ministry said after a meeting between Lavrov and UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan in Cairo.

AFP

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