UNITED NATIONS - Russia called off a meeting of an international action group on the Syria conflict planned for Friday after Western nations told them they would not attend, diplomats said.
Russia's decision to postpone the talks at the UN headquarters was a new sign of divisions among the major powers over the 17-month-old civil war.
Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin had invited permanent members of the UN Security Council and other envoys to discuss a possible call on President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's ally, and the Syrian opposition to halt the violence.
But diplomats said that the United States, France and Britain told the Russians they would not attend. Only China and a UN representative had confirmed they would go to the talks, diplomats said.
"There were consultations before and the countries said they would not be attending," one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
"It is not a boycott. At this stage we just cannot see the point of this meeting. The divisions are such that there is no chance of this action group making political agreement on Syria," added a second diplomat.
"The meeting has been postponed at the request of some members of the action group," Russian UN mission spokesman Anton Uspensky said.
He said it was not immediately clear whether a new date would be set.
Churkin invited the members of an action group set up by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan which met in Geneva on June 30.
The foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China were among officials at that meeting, which agreed there should be a transition in Syria but did not set out precise details.
Churkin said Russia wanted the international group to set a deadline for the Syrian government and opposition to halt the violence.
The United States had expressed public doubts about the invitation however.
"Frankly, we're not sure we understand the objective and the goal of the meeting," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
"As we've said all along: To have meetings for meetings' sake is not what any of us needs to do. What we need to do is have meetings that support the Syrian people and support an end to the bloodshed," she said.
Western nations are still angry at Russia and China for three vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions on Syria which condemned Assad's assault on protesters and threatened sanctions.
Russia has accused the United States and its allies of simply seeking to oust the current regime, Moscow's closest Middle East ally, a trading partner and the host of a Russian naval base in the eastern Mediterranean.