By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council hopes to adopt a resolution on Yemen by next week that would voice support for Gulf Arab mediators who have urged the country's president to hand over power, envoys said on Monday.
Britain has been drafting a resolution on Yemen in consultation with France and the United States and intends to circulate it to the full 15-nation Security Council shortly after a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
Russia and China were not likely to block a resolution on Yemen, diplomats in New York said.
"We would ideally like to vote on the resolution this week," a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Another diplomat said the vote would most likely take place late this week or early next week.
U.N. special envoy Jamal Benomar, who left Yemen earlier this month after a fruitless two weeks trying to mediate between the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the opposition, is scheduled to brief the council on Tuesday.
The council meeting on Yemen comes after Saleh suggested on Saturday he would step down within days, a promise he has made three times already this year.
Analysts and U.N. diplomats said they suspect it is yet another stalling tactic by Saleh.
The resolution, diplomats said, would voice support for a Gulf Arab peace initiative that Saleh has already pulled back from three times. That plan calls for him to form an opposition-led cabinet and then hand power to his deputy before early parliamentary and presidential elections.
The wily Saleh, who came to power in 1978, is under pressure from international allies and an array of street activists, armed opponents and opposition parties to make good on promises to hand over power and end a crisis that has raised the specter of a failed Arab state overrun by militants.
Confusion over Saleh's intent is standard fare in a conflict that has dragged on since January when protesters first took to the streets to demand reform and an end to the grip on power that Saleh and his family have had for 33 years.
Russia and China last week vetoed a resolution condemning Syria's government for its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, which the United Nations says has killed more than 2,900 civilians.
Russia and China, supported by skeptical Brazil, India and South Africa, justified their Syria vetoes with concerns the Security Council might end up backing a Libya-style military intervention to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But the situation appears to be different with Yemen.
"Both Russia and China support council action on Yemen," a diplomat said. "The role played by an armed opposition in Yemen changes things as well. Russia and China want stability. They see the situation in Yemen differently from Syria."
The Security Council issued a statement on Yemen in late June that voiced "grave concern" about the situation there and welcomed "the ongoing mediation efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council to help the parties find agreement on a way forward."
That statement came after months of disagreement due to Russian and Chinese objections about what they saw as interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state, council diplomats said.
(Editing by John O'Callaghan)