Russia accuses West of inciting Syrian opposition

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a press conference in Moscow July 16, 2012.
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Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

(CBS/AP) MOSCOW - Russia on Wednesday accused the West of inciting the Syrian opposition after several senior officials in President Bashar Assad's regime, including the defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law, were killed in a bomb attack, arguing that a proposed U.N. resolution amounted to support for the rebels and would lead to more bloodshed.

Russia, a longtime Syria ally, is at odds with the U.S. and its European allies ahead of a scheduled vote that was delayed until Thursday morning on a new resolution that would impose sanctions on Syria's government aimed at ending the country's 17-month civil war.

"Instead of calming the opposition down, some of our partners are inciting it to go on," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency on Wednesday.

Supporting the Syrian opposition "is a dead-end policy, because Assad is not leaving voluntarily," he said.

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In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Pentagon news conference that the bombing is evidence that violence in Syria is "rapidly spinning out of control."

"The violence there has only gotten worse and the loss of lives has only increased," Panetta said, "which tells us that this is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control." He said that is all the more reason for the international community to bring "maximum pressure" on Assad to step down and permit a stable transfer of power.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said it's clear that Assad is losing control of his country.

"There is real momentum against Assad, with increasing defections, and a strengthened and more united opposition that is operating across the country," Vietor said, adding, "With the Assad regime losing control, it's time for the Syrian people and the international community to focus on what comes next. We are working urgently with our international partners to push for a political transition in Syria."

The key stumbling block to an agreement on a Syria plan at the U.N. Security Council is the Western demand for a resolution threatening non-military sanctions and tied to Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which could eventually allow the use of force to end the conflict.

The council vote was originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but it was delayed after a request from international envoy Kofi Annan, who has tried in vain to broker a cease-fire between the rebels and government forces, CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk reports from the U.N.

Russia is adamantly opposed to any mention of sanctions or Chapter 7. Although Western nations appear to have little appetite for force, Russia fears a repeat of the NATO campaign in Libya and adamantly opposes any prospect of international intervention.

A Western-backed resolution that would impose sanctions and allows for possible military intervention "would amount to direct support of the revolutionary movement," Lavrov said.

Britain's foreign Secretary insisted on Wednesday, however, that the bombing underscored the urgent need for a Chapter 7 resolution.

"The situation in Syria is clearly deteriorating. All the members of the U.N. Security Council have a responsibility to put their weight behind the enforcement of ... Annan's plan to end the violence," William Hague said in a statement.

In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said that the Syrian regime "is not in control of the situation," making continued chaos more likely.

The pressure was rising on diplomats as Syria's rebel commander Riad al-Assad said his forces planted a bomb inside a room in Damascus where senior government officials were meeting Wednesday. The rebel leader denies government claims that it was a suicide attack, saying all those who carried out the operation are safe.

Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha and his deputy, Asef Shawkat, were both killed in the explosion. Shawkat, Assad's brother-in-law, also held the title of Deputy Chief of Staff. According to state-run television, former Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani, who headed Assad's "crisis cell" that coordinated the regime's response to the 16-month uprising, was also killed in the blast.

There has been a lot of diplomatic scrambling to try to get council unity, which would send a much stronger signal to Syria, with Annan in Russia for two days of high-level meetings, including talks with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

The Western draft resolution would impose non-military sanctions against Assad's regime if it fails to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from populated areas within 10 days -- a key plank of the Annan plan. Moscow's rival proposed resolution calls for the "immediate implementation" of Annan's plan and guidelines for a political transition approved at a meeting in Geneva last month but makes no mention of sanctions.

Russia and China have incurred international criticism by twice vetoing U.N. resolutions to increase pressure on Assad. In Beijing, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sat down for talks Wednesday morning with Chinese President Hu Jintao.