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UN diplomats seek guidance from capitals on Syria

UN diplomats fail to agree on Syria, order up new text for study by home governments By The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) ' U.N. Security Council ambassadors have failed to reach agreement after a third straight session of talks on a resolution aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Syria.

Envoys said Thursday that yet another text is being drawn up for them to send to their capitals for consideration.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant says the new version will be put in final form in preparation for a vote "as soon as possible."

Lyall Grant and French Ambassador Gerard Araud had been hopeful before Thursday's closed consultations, embracing a version of the resolution that removed an explicit demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad step aside.

Russia has said it would veto any resolution calling for Assad to stand down.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) ' Western ambassadors on the U.N. Security Council on Thursday embraced a revised resolution aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Syria and predicted rapid approval after removal of an explicit demand that President Bashar Assad step aside.

The latest draft, obtained by The Associated Press, still "fully supports" the Arab League's Jan. 22 decision to "facilitate a political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system."

But it removes a clause calling for Assad to hand power to a deputy before a new government is created.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant and French Ambassador Gerard Araud said they expected that a final version could be ready for a vote as early as Friday.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice was less optimistic. "This is still tough going, very much so," she said.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin did not comment on the revised text as he entered the meeting.

In an apparent effort to overcome Russian objections, the new version of the resolution no longer includes the explicit reference to Assad delegating his powers. It also removes language calling for a new national unity government and for transparent, free elections ' also important parts of the Arab peace plan.

The revised draft also deletes a paragraph calling on U.N. member states to take steps to prevent the flow of arms into Syria. Russia is a major arms supplier to Syria, a key regional ally since Soviet times.

Moroccan Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki, whose country is sponsoring the resolution, said his delegation "made a genuine effort to try to meet most, if not all, of the concerns that have been expressed."

It was unclear if the changes would be enough to get Russian support.

The Russians have said that the Arab peace plan would amount to regime change because it calls for Assad to delegate his authority to a deputy, and have said they would not back a draft that expressed support for the plan.

As a permanent council member, Russia can use its veto to block the resolution. Russia and China, another permanent member, issued a double veto in October to block an earlier resolution condemning the violence in Syria.

The U.N. said several weeks ago that at least 5,400 people have been killed in the 10-month-old government crackdown on a civilian uprising.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the foreign ministers of Britain and France joined Arab League officials in a high-level meeting at the U.N. urging council members to approve a resolution.

Clinton reiterated Wednesday that it was important for the council to move quickly.

"Every member of the council has to make a decision, whose side are you on? Are you on the side of the Syrian people ... or are you on the side of a brutal dictatorial regime?" she said.


Associated Press writer Eileen Alt Powell contributed to this report from the United Nations.

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Related Keywords:UN-UN-Syria,Diplomacy,International relations,Government and politics


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