MOSCOW Russia on Sunday criticized what it said were Western attempts to use a Syrian chemical arms disarmament deal to seek a U.N. resolution threatening force against President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Syria has handed over information about its chemical arsenal to a U.N.-backed weapons watchdog, meeting the first deadline of the ambitious U.S.-Russia deal that averted the threat of Western air strikes.
The U.N. Security Council is due to give its endorsement of the deal, but Moscow and Washington are divided over how to ensure compliance with the accord. U.S. President Barack Obama has warned that he is still prepared to attack Syria, even without a U.N. mandate, if Assad reneges on the deal.
"They see in the U.S.-Russian deal not a chance to save the planet from significant quantities of chemical weapons in Syria, but as a chance to do what Russia and China will not allow, namely to push through a resolution involving (the threat of) force against the regime and shielding the opposition," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state television posted on his ministry's website.
Lavrov also said Russia, which has used its veto to block Western efforts to use the U.N. Security Council's clout to pressure Assad's government, was ready to send troops to Syria to ensure the safety of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors.
"An international presence is needed on the perimeters of the areas where the experts will work," he said. "We are willing to send our troops and military police to participate," he said. "I do not think that there is a need for a major contingent. I think military observers will be sufficient."
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Pravin Char)