DEAUVILLE, France (Reuters) - The Group of Eight leaders said on Friday they were "appalled" at the killing of peaceful protesters by Syrian authorities and demanded an immediate end to the use of force.
But in a communique to be issued later after a two-day G8 summit in France -- a copy of which was obtained by Reuters -- the leaders of the seven Western powers plus Russia refrained from an explicit proposal, contained in earlier drafts of the document, to act against Damascus in the U.N. Security Council.
The shift in language to a vaguer threat of "further measures" may reflect reluctance by Russia, which has a veto in the Security Council and which has generally taken a softer line than Western states against autocratic Arab leaders.
European diplomats said Russia's longstanding relations and what they called close communications with Syria had led to the final communique being "more nuanced" than it was at first.
"We are appalled by the deaths of many peaceful protesters as a result of the sweeping use of violence in Syria as well as by repeated and serious violations of human rights," the leaders said in the communique.
"We call on the Syrian leadership to immediately stop using force and intimidation against the Syrian people and to respond to their legitimate demands for freedom of expression and universal rights and aspirations. We also call for the release of all political prisoners in Syria.
"Only the path of dialogue and fundamental reforms will lead to democracy, and thus to long-term security and prosperity in Syria.
"Should the Syrian authorities not heed this call, we will consider further measures. We are convinced that only by implementing meaningful reforms will a democratic Syria be able to play a positive role in the region."
A G8 source familiar with talks on Syria at the United Nations said they were not surprised that a reference to a Security Council resolution had been cut.
"What we can say is that we have at least the nine votes for a resolution, but at this stage it seems that one of the two would use their veto," the source said, referring to China and Russia, although they did not name them.
"We are seeing if we can negotiate around the text so we can get something through. If they continue to say no, we shall try and push it through with the nine votes and hope they assume their responsibilities."
Part of Russia's reluctance to support a Syria resolution stems from the fact that it regards the resolution on Libya as having been too broadly interpreted, allowing Western powers to move very rapidly to air strikes when the resolution originally talked of protecting civilians, diplomats said.
(Reporting by Luke Baker and John Irish, editing by Jon Boyle)