UN mulls revised condemnation of Syria
New York - European nations seeking to increase pressure on President Bashar Assad's regime presented a revised resolution to the United Nations on Wednesday condemning Syria for its deadly crackdown on protesters.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal introduced the new text at a closed Security Council meeting in New York as Syrian troops and tanks made their way to the northern part of the country where soldiers reportedly have joined an anti-government uprising. Witnesses said they feared an attack was imminent.
UN diplomats said the new draft, which has strong US backing, is aimed at winning more support for the resolution in the UN Security Council and avoiding a Russian veto.
"We will be on the right side of history if and when this comes to a vote," said Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations. "If others are unable to, or unwilling to, then that will be their responsibility to bear."
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin reiterated that Moscow would not support the resolution on the grounds that it would not promote dialogue and help put an end to the violence.
"We are concerned it would have the opposite effect," Churkin said.
While Russia doesn't support the draft, Churkin declined to say on Wednesday whether Russia planned to veto the revised resolution.
Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he hopes for a vote in the coming days. No one answered the phone late on Wednesday at Syria's mission to the UN.
Immediate end to violence
The resolution needs nine "yes" votes to be adopted by the 15-member council, and no veto by a permanent member - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal circulated the original draft resolution on May 26, and diplomats said they have nine "yes" votes to adopt it, but they are hoping for additional support, possibly from South Africa and Brazil.
The latest text, obtained late on Wednesday by The Associated Press, demands an immediate end to the violence, condemns human rights abuses and calls on Syria to allow immediate access to international human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies and workers.
The draft calls for political reforms that would allow "genuine political participation", and the release of all political prisoners.
It also calls upon all countries to prevent the supply of arms to Syria and for the immediate lifting of restrictions on media. Syria severely restricts local media and has expelled foreign journalists from the country.
Lyall Grant would not say how the new text differs from the original version.
"Our concern is that the country could fall into a civil war. We do think that the council has to act," said France's Ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud.
US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Washington was trying to secure the backing of other members.
"Such a resolution will bring added pressure on Assad's regime and advance the international community's efforts to end the brutal repression on the Syrian people," Toner said.
One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, said the US doesn't want to bring a resolution to a vote if it isn't going to prevail. The goal is to win the vote, not to embarrass obstructing countries, the official said.
The sponsors believe Russia, China, India and Lebanon are very unlikely to support it, but the question is whether Russia, or possibly China, would cast a veto and kill it.
Earlier on Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke in London and warned: "if anyone votes against that resolution or tries to veto it, that should be on their conscience."
Major Western powers have urged Assad's regime to halt the crackdown, enact reforms or step aside. Activists say more than 1 300 Syrians, most of them civilians, have died since the start of the nationwide uprising 11 weeks ago.
The resolution is separate from another effort to bring Syria before the Security Council over its nuclear programme.
The United States and its allies are pushing ahead with efforts to bring Syria before the Security Council for failure to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite opposition from China and Russia.