European nations are expected to vote on a UN resolution that would consider sanctions if the Syrian government does not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians.
Diplomats said it was unclear whether Russia, which opposes even mentioning the possibility of sanctions against President Bashar Assad's regime, will veto or abstain on the resolution.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday the vote is likely to take place late this afternoon although contacts between key capitals were still taking place.
If approved, it would be the first resolution against Syria adopted by the Security Council since Assad's military began its crackdown in mid-March against protesters.
Although the mass demonstrations have shaken one of the Middle East's most authoritarian regimes, the opposition has made no major gains in recent months and holds no territory. The regime blames the unrest on armed gangs and claims security forces are the real victims. The UN estimates that more than 2,700 civilians have died since the uprising began.
The Security Council issued a presidential statement in August condemning the escalating violence after months of arguments between supporters and opponents of Assad's regime.
Immediately afterwards, the Europeans, backed by the United States, pressed for a legally binding council resolution calling for an immediate arms embargo and other sanctions aimed at stopping the Assad government's crackdown on protesters.
But Russia, China, India, South Africa and Brazil were opposed, partly because of fear that the resolution might be used as a pretext for armed intervention against Syria.
They argue that the UN resolution authorising the use of force to protect civilians in Libya was misused by Nato to justify months of air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's regime - and they oppose any possible repetition in Syria.
Early last week, the Europeans presented a new draft resolution that dropped the immediate imposition of sanctions.