UN mulls softer draft to overcome Russia’s veto

UN mulls softer draft to overcome Russia’s veto

UN mulls softer draft to overcome Russia’s veto

This file photo shows, Syrian anti-regime protesters gathering during a rally in al-Assy square in the western city of Hama, Syria. AP Photo

U.N. Security Council members yesterday 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, but it “fully supports” an Arab League plan to facilitate a democratic transition.

Diplomats said Jan. 2 the new draft would be sent back to their governments for deliberation. 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 United Nations Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said. The latest attempt at consensus emerged after hours of talks stalled in the U.N. Security Council, with Russia leading the opposition to a tougher draft resolution authored by Western powers and the Arab League.

The new draft 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,” according to a copy.

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. United States Ambassador Susan Rice also played down expectations, saying “We are still not there.”

Salehi: Syria, strongest link

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said syrian government is being forced by the world powers because it is “the strongest link in the resistance axis in the region.” Salehi told the Lebanese al-Akhbar daily Feb. 2 that “Syrian government is the only one that continued to stand up to Israel and support the resistance. That is why you see this attack on Syria.” Salehi said this is the main reason why Iran, “from day one, defended the Syrian government and people.” However, he said the Syrian authorities should meet these demands.

The diplomatic wrangling at the U.N. came as fierce clashes across Syria on Jan. 3 killed five people, including two children, as forces loyal to al-Assad fired on several protests, activists said. Syrian forces have detained and tortured children as young as 13 as the government tries to crush an uprising, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. The report said it has documented at least 12 cases of children detained under “inhumane” conditions and tortured, as well as children shot while in their homes or on the street. Thousands of protesters in towns across Syria defied a brutal government crackdown yesterday to commemorate the notorious 1982 massacre ordered by the father of al-Assad in the city of Hama that killed the estimated 10,000 to 40,000 people.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

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