Damascus plays up weak UN statement
DAMASCUS - Syria on Thursday played up the lack of any threat or ultimatum in the UN Security Council statement backing special envoy Kofi Annan's mission to resolve its year-old crisis.
State news agency SANA noted that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the measure, passed unanimously on Wednesday, stressing "the document does not contain any ultimatums, threats or assertions who is guilty."
"No warnings or signals in the statement," the SANA report was headlined.
Following intense negotiations among the major UN powers, Russia and China signed up to the Western-drafted text which calls on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to work toward a cessation of hostilities and a democratic transition.
Russia and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions on Syria that were backed by the United States and Europe, arguing they were unbalanced and aimed at regime change.
The statement, which carries less weight than a formal resolution and is non-binding, gives strong backing to a six-point plan that UN-Arab League envoy Annan put to Assad during talks in Damascus earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Syrian forces on Thursday launched an assault on a town in Idlib province on the border with Turkey, wounding dozens of people in shelling and heavy machinegun fire, monitors said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the casualties came as troops raided the town of Sermin in northwest Syria.
In the south, rebel fighters killed a soldier and wounded four others near the village of Saida in Daraa province, on the border with Jordan and where Syria's year-old revolt against the regime erupted, it said.
The Britain-based Observatory also reported several people wounded as regime forces opened fire with heavy machineguns in the Arbaeen district of Hama city in central Syria.
The reports could not be confirmed due to restrictions on the movements of foreign media in the country.
Monitors say more than 9,100 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011 as regime forces have sought to crush a popular revolt.