Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron as he arrives for a meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012.
MOSCOW - Russia said on Thursday it would not back a Saudi-drafted resolution on Syria at the U.N. General Assembly, saying the document was unbalanced and would encourage rebels to keep fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The assembly was due to vote on Friday on the non-binding resolution, which criticises the U.N. Security Council for failing to take action on Syria, after a vote planned for Thursday was postponed to make time for negotiations on proposed revisions.
The latest draft was toned down by removing language explicitly backing Arab League calls for Assad to resign and supporting sanctions.
Western diplomats said they hoped that would raise the number of votes in favour of the resolution to at least 100, although they said many other countries were likely to abstain.
But a Russian Foreign Ministry statement called the resolution "one-sided and unbalanced" and said Moscow would not support it in its current form.
Russia said the draft placed "full responsibility for what is happening in the country ... solely on the Syrian authorities" while leaving the opposition "outside the boundaries of the international community's demands."
"In this way, it encourages (the opposition's) line of uncompromising armed fight against the Syrian government," the foreign ministry statement added.
Russia, which says both sides of the conflict must cease violence simultaneously, has shielded Assad's government from increased international pressure by vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states.
The draft resolution would have the General Assembly -- where no country holds veto powers -- "deploring" the Security Council's failure to take steps against Damascus.
Moscow and Beijing were expected to vote against the document, diplomats said, as they did with a similar General Assembly resolution in February.
In the latest sign that the outlook for diplomatic solution for Syria was bleak, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Thursday he would step down as the U.N.-Arab League mediator in the 17-month-old Syria conflict at the end of August.