Syria draft may pass despite Russian opposition

Despite Russia’s rejection of a revised draft resolution on Syria, the United Nations Security Council was to convene Saturday to possibly act on the text, diplomats said.

The revised text had been weakened to meet Moscow’s demands, including dropping a call for President Bashir al-Assad to step down. The text is supported by 17 countries, including eight of the 15 council members — Morocco, France, Britain, the United States, Germany, Portugal, Togo and Colombia.

The other sponsors are Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Turkey. Morocco called for the Saturday meeting, with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov set to meet the same day on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich to discuss the draft resolution that was rejected by Moscow.

“Our position has not been taken into consideration enough,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov said, according to the Interfax news agency on Friday. He said Moscow was ready to negotiate and recognised the value of recent Security Council discussions. Russia holds a permanent seat on the Security Council and could veto any resolution.

The US and Russian delegations at UN headquarters in New York would continue consulting on the draft resolution, state department spokesperson Mark Toner said in Washington.

“We want to see the Security Council speak in a unified and strong fashion in support of the Syrian people,” Toner said.

Watered-down draft
A revised draft resolution, submitted to the council on Thursday by Morocco and supported by European and Arab members, dropped several major demands, including the call for al-Assad to step down.

The watered-down draft dropped major demands by the Arab League and council members including the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Portugal.

The Arab League and those countries had called for al-Assad to step aside and fully cooperate with a transitional government.

Those demands, and the holding of transparent and free elections, were stricken from the new text. Other items removed from the original draft were a mention of weapons sales to Syria and of sanctions against Syria called for by the Arab League. It extended the Western demand for implementation of the resolution by Damascus from 15 days to 21 days.

Russia is a major arms supplier to Syria.

The watered down text would demand the council to “fully support” the Arab League’s initiatives, which called also for a transitional government in Syria. Diplomats said Russia opposed such language.

The Arab League met with the 15-nation council on Tuesday and requested adoption of a resolution that would support its plan of action to end the 11-month uprising, in which more than 5 400 people have died.

The latest reports from Syrian opposition activists said that a massacre was taking place in the restive city of Homs with at least 100 people dead.

The violence broke out after thousands of people across Syria defied the government crackdown to mark the 30th anniversary of a notorious 1982 massacre in the central city of Hama that killed thousands.

The revised text maintained strong condemnation of the “continued widespread gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities.” It cited use of military force against civilians, arbitrary executions and killings and persecution of protesters and media members.

It called for “an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation and extremism, and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.” — AP

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