Russia "disappointed" with UN Syria draft: envoys

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2012 4:23 PM
Russia "disappointed" with UN Syria draft: envoys

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told a closed-door meeting of the Security Council on Friday that he was "deeply disappointed" with a European-Arab draft resolution endorsing an Arab League plan for Syria, diplomats said.

Churkin told the 15-nation council that he disagreed with the Arab League trying to "impose an outside solution" on the conflict in Syria and rejected the idea of an arms embargo and the use of force, diplomats at the meeting told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

However, he did not explicitly threaten to veto the draft resolution, which French Ambassador Gerard Araud said he hoped would be put to a vote next week.

Diplomats said Morocco circulated to the Security Council the European-Arab draft resolution supporting the Arab League's call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer his powers to his deputy in order to form a unity government and prepare for elections.

France and Britain crafted the resolution in consultation with Qatar and Morocco, as well as Germany, Portugal and the United States. It is intended to replace a Russian draft that Western delegations said is too weak and irrelevant in light of the new Arab League plan.

Diplomats said both Churkin and China's envoy warned council members against imposing an arms embargo or supporting the use of force against Syria, which Araud and British envoy Mark Lyall Grant pointed out are not in the European-Arab draft.

Araud told reporters that negotiations on revising the text would begin in earnest early next week.

The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, calls for a "political transition" in Syria. While not calling for U.N. sanctions against Damascus, it does say that the Security Council could "adopt further measures" if Syria does not comply with the terms of the resolution.

Russia, together with China, vetoed a European-drafted resolution in October that condemned Syria and threatened it with sanctions over its 10-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. It is unclear whether Russia is ready to wield its veto again to block council action on Syria.

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; editing by Christopher Wilson)