UN fails to agree on full resolution as violence rises in Syria

Actors of new war of words

The UN Security Council on Friday condemned suicide attacks in the Syrian capital but remained deadlocked on a full resolution on the crisis with the Russian and US ambassadors trading personal barbs.
Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin hit out at what he called the "Stanford dictionary of expletives" used against him by US ambassador Susan Rice.
His American counterpart, a graduate of the elite California University, had earlier accused Churkin of using calls for an investigation into NATO air strikes in Libya as a "cheap stunt" to divert attention from Syria.
The council "condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks" that Syrian authorities say left at least 40 dead, said a statement which took intense talks between the 15 members.
President Bashar al-Assad's government blamed Al-Qaeda for the suicide attacks on two Damascus bases. But the Syrian opposition says Assad's forces committed the strikes and the Security Council statement pointedly left out offering traditional condolences to the government.
Council members expressed "sincere condolences to the victims of these heinous acts and to their families, and to the people of Syria." The council's standard statement for terrorist attacks normally offers sympathy to the government.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon is "gravely concerned" at the escalating violence but also stressed that Assad must fully implement an Arab League peace plan to end 10 months of strife in the country which the UN says has left at least 5,000 dead.
Ban kept up calls for "credible, inclusive and legitimate" political change in Syria, said his spokesman Martin Nesirky, adding that the government must "fully and speedily" implement the Arab League peace plan.
Western diplomats have expressed skepticism that Arab League monitors in Damascus will be allowed to work effectively and Ban said the full mission "must be given unhindered access."
Russia on Friday presented a new draft resolution on the crisis that Western governments immediately rejected as still not tough enough on Assad.
Western envoys have called for a UN arms embargo on Syria. They also reject Russia's insistence of comparing violence by the Syrian opposition to the government's crackdown.
Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig said European countries wanted to see more weight behind the Arab League, which has ordered sanctions against Syria.
He said there had to be "demands to release political prisoners" and "a clear signal for accountability for those who have perpetrated human rights violations."
Wittig said the Russian suggestions so far are "insufficient."
Russia and China vetoed a European-drafted resolution in October which condemned the government violence and threatened possible sanctions.
Russian envoy Churkin set out the limits for any new resolution.
"If the requirement is that we drop all reference to violence coming from extreme opposition, that's not going to happen," Churkin told a press conference.
"If they expect us to have arms embargo, that's not going to happen," he added.
"We know what arms embargo means these days. It means that -- we saw it in Libya -- that you cannot supply weapons to the government but everybody else can supply weapons to various opposition groups."
Churkin has stepped up calls this week for a UN investigation of NATO air strikes in Libya, infuriating the United States and its allies.
American counterpart Rice called the comments "bombast and bogus claims" and said it was a "cheap stunt" to take away attention from Syria. France's envoy Gerard Araud called it "a ploy".
Churkin used the comments to make a dig at President Barack Obama's declared intention to improve relations with the United Nations and international community.
"If this is their intention, then really this Stanford dictionary of expletives must be replaced by something more Victorian," said Churkin.
"This is not the language in which we intend to discuss matters with our partners in the Security Council."