Threat of Russian veto hangs over UN Syria resolution

3rd October 2011, Comments 0 comments

European nations will seek a vote Tuesday on a UN Security Council resolution formally condemning the Syrian crackdown on protests not knowing whether Russia will veto the measure, diplomats said.

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal have dropped the word "sanctions" from their draft text in a bid to win over countries who have blocked the council's first formal resolution on the Syria crisis since protests erupted in March.

But Russia and other members still have strong doubts about the softened condemnation of the crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad, which the UN says has left at least 2,700 dead.

Russia had threatened to use its right as a permanent member of the council to veto any resolution which threatened sanctions. It has not said whether it will block the latest draft, which talks of "targeted measures" rather than overt sanctions.

"We just do not know what the Russians' plan is on this, but the time has come now to send a signal to President Assad," one European diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"We are ready to go ahead with a vote even if the Russians decide to veto. But the negotiations are now between capitals," said another UN diplomat.

"The talks will go on tomorrow as well, so the final look of the resolution and the timing of the vote could be decided at the last moment," the diplomat added, also on condition of anonymity.

Russia's UN spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said last week that the European resolution was still aimed at "regime change" in Syria.

Russia has proposed its own rival draft resolution with no threat of action. But this has not yet been formally proposed for a vote.

The Europeans and Russia disagree over whether the opposition violence in Syria should be given the same weight as the government crackdown.

Europe insists that any resolution should put more stress on Assad's action.

The current European draft "strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human right violations by the Syrian authorities" and demands an immediate end to "all violence".

The resolution would call for "targeted measures" if the Syrian government fails to comply within 30 days.

Following criticism of the NATO air strikes in Libya, European ministers have stressed that they have no intention of seeking military action in Syria. This has done little however to ease opposition from Russia, China and non-permanent countries such as India and South Africa.

© 2011 AFP

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