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Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations Security Council edged closer to agreement on a draft resolution on Syria as members debate the degree of support for an Arab League plan that calls on President Bashar al-Assad to renounce power.
The 15-member council negotiated for three hours today, focusing on Russia’s objections to what it says is the current draft’s endorsement of regime change.
Almost a year after an uprising began against Assad, Syria was at the center of a UN debate yesterday that drew top diplomats such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The UN says the conflict, which has killed more than 5,400 people, is evolving into a civil war.
“We have a better understanding on what we can do to reach consensus,” Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told reporters after the meeting.
A new text will be circulated on the draft resolution, UN envoys said as they left the council. They expressed varying assessments of the chances a resolution can win unanimous passage.
Russia, whose only military base outside the former Soviet Union is in Syria, has threatened to use its veto if the UN tries to force Assad from power. It blocked a Security Council resolution once before, in October, when Western powers sought to hold the Syrian president responsible for violence.
The U.K.’s Mark Lyall Grant said there was progress and the plan by the draft’s Arab and European sponsors is to seek a vote in the next two days. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said that, while “people are in the spirit of rolling up their sleeves,” it was “way too soon” to know if a final agreement could be reached.
Arab League Initiative
The current resolution, dated Jan. 27, “fully supports” a Jan. 22 Arab League initiative that calls on the “delegation by the president of Syria of his full authority to his deputy.”
That remains a sticking point that the latest draft will have to address. For the Arabs and the Europeans, support for the Arab League’s roadmap, which includes a power transfer, remains the “bottom line” and must stay in the final version.
Colombian Ambassador to the UN Nestor Osorio gave an inkling of where a compromise can be reached.
“There are different views, starting with ‘fully support,’ ‘taking note,’ ‘welcoming,’ he said. “We have not taken a decision on that.”
From Jerusalem, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked the Security Council members to put aside their differences and act.
“We cannot wait any longer until the political process is finished while many people are being killed,” Ban told reporters today in Jerusalem. “First, all violence must stop, and I sincerely hope this will lead to a political solution. That is what I am urging to the international community.”
--Editors: Jim Rubin, Don Frederick
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