UN members consider new draft resolution on Syria
UN Security Council members on Friday were considering a draft resolution condemning the bloody Syria crackdown that was amended in a bid to overcome Russian-led opposition.
The latest draft does not explicitly call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down or mention an arms embargo or sanctions, though it "fully supports" an Arab League plan to facilitate a democratic transition.
Diplomats said Thursday that the new draft would be sent back to their governments for deliberations. It was not immediately clear whether it would be approved and sent back to the 15-member council for a vote.
"Everyone will seek instructions from their capitals and we hope to be able to vote as soon as possible," Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said.
The latest attempt at consensus emerged after hours of talks stalled in the UN Security Council, with Russia leading the opposition to a tougher draft resolution authored by Western powers and the Arab League.
The new draft "fully supports" the January 22 Arab League request that Assad transfer power to a deputy and a government of national unity within two months but does not call on him to step down.
Instead, it calls for a "Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system... including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition under the League of Arab States' auspices, in accordance with the timetable set out by the League of Arab States."
Like previous versions, the draft "condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from."
It was not clear whether the new draft had addressed Moscow's concerns, and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the decision to send the draft back to governments "does not prejudge in any way" whether it would be approved or not.
US ambassador Susan Rice also played down expectations, saying: "We are still not there."
"There are still some complicated issues that our capitals will have to deliberate on and provide us with instructions," she said.
A full council meeting earlier Thursday had broken up, with diplomats saying they were unable to overcome Russian concerns over how to respond to the Syrian crackdown, in which observers say some 6,000 people have been killed.
The Security Council has been divided for days over a draft resolution that calls for an end to the bloodshed and the start of political transition.
During the talks, the ambassador of Morocco, Mohammed Loulichki reportedly expressed "frustration on behalf of the Arab League."
The diplomatic wrangling at the UN came as fierce clashes across Syria on Wednesday killed 59 people, mostly civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The overall death toll is about 6,000, according to the group.
The United States and its allies say a resolution is needed to force the Syrian government to back down in its attempt to forcefully suppress a growing rebellion inspired by last year's Arab revolts.
Russia has longstanding ties to the ruling Assad family in Syria and says the UN must steer away from what Moscow sees as an attempt at regime change.
Relations between Russia and the West in the Security Council were badly strained over a resolution that authorized the use of force to protect civilians during Libya's uprising last year.
NATO air power ultimately became the rebels' biggest weapon in overthrowing Moamer Kadhafi, the third Arab autocrat to fall last year, after Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The latest draft explicitly rules out the use of force under UN auspices.