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'Some progress' in UN talks on Syria resolution

Update: February, 02/2012 - 11:53

UNITED NATIONS – The UN Security Council made "some progress" on Wednesday in talks aimed at persuading Russia to back a tough resolution condemning deadly violence in Syria, the British envoy said.

Both Russia and China – which have veto power in the 15-member council – have expressed reservations about the proposed Western and Arab-backed draft, which includes a call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's resignation.

"We made some progress today," Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters after a meeting among Council members that lasted for nearly three hours.

"There is a desire to get to a text that can be adopted in the next few days but we are not there yet," Lyall Grant said.

Russia's envoy Vitaly Churkin said: "We have a much better understanding of what needs to be done to reach a consensus... I think it was a pretty good session."

The original resolution proposed by Morocco and backed by the Arab League and Western powers calls for Assad to step down and seeks an end to a military crackdown that has left between 5,000 and 6,000 people dead.

A new draft was expected to be prepared following Wednesday's talks and submitted to Council members on Thursday for new discussions, diplomats said.

One diplomat said the talks had focused on the degree of support the Council should offer to the Arab League's proposal to break the impasse in Syria.

Russia and China are among the nations on the council who want to see a text that clearly rejects any foreign military intervention, as was seen in Libya, and are concerned about anything endorsing regime change in Damascus.

"We will not allow a text to be adopted that we consider to be incorrect and will lead to a deepening of the conflict," Churkin was quoted as saying earlier by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Ahead of the talks, India's UN ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said his country was still uneasy about some of the wording.

"A message has to be addressed to both sides... now that you are dealing with armed opposition," he said. "How do you expect both sides to agree to a recommendation if the precondition is that one side has to step down?"

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the foreign ministers of France and Britain, as well as Qatar's prime minister, in leading a charge for a tough resolution targeting Assad.

Clinton said on Wednesday that Council members had to decide whether they would side with the Syrian people or a "brutal" dictatorship.

"Every member of the council has to make a decision: Whose side are you on?" Clinton told reporters in response to a question about Russian opposition to the current resolution.

"Are you on the side of the Syrian people? Are you on the side of the Arab League?" the chief US diplomat asked.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said earlier that Russia was showing a "less negative" attitude towards the resolution.AFP

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