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Russia and China have vetoed two U.N. Security Council resolutions backing Arab League plans aimed at ending the conflict and condemning Assad’s crackdown on protests that killed 5,400 people in 2011 alone, according to the U.N. Hundreds more have been killed since, activist groups say. One of the groups puts the toll at more than 7,300.

Lukashevich said the meeting wouldn’t help a dialogue, saying that the global community should act as friends of all the Syrian people, not just one part.

“It looks like an attempt to forge some kind of international coalition like it was with the setting up of a ‘Contact Group’ for Libya,” he said.

Russia has said it will block any U.N. resolution that could pave the way for a replay of what happened in Libya. In that case, Russia abstained from a vote, which cleared the way for months of NATO airstrikes that helped Libyans end Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

In Jerusalem, Sen. John McCain condemned Russia and China for vetoing sanctions against Syria, saying their action was “not the behavior of mature nations.” He suggested that weapons should be sent to those fighting the regime.

Iran — Syria‘s other strong ally — sent two warships through the Suez Canal on Tuesday on their way back from the Syrian port of Tartus. The ships had reportedly docked in Syria over the weekend on a mission to provide training for Syria‘s naval forces, according to Iranian media reports.

The Pentagon disputed those reports, saying there was no indication the ships had docked or delivered any cargo. U.S. Defense Department spokesman George Little said the Iranian ships now appear to be going back through the Suez Canal again.

Assad has announced a Feb. 26 referendum on a new constitution. The charter would allow a bigger role for political opposition to challenge Assad’s Baath Party, which has controlled Syria since a 1963 coup. But leaders of the uprising have dismissed the referendum as an attempt at superficial reforms that do nothing to break the regime’s hold on power.

In Jordan, Bernardino Leon, the EU’s representative for the Southern Mediterranean, said Assad’s regime missed the opportunity for reforms. “Syria is definitely not in a transition despite announcements of changes, despite plans for a referendum,” Leon told reporters.

Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Geneva, Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, and Bradley Klapper and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.