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Russia proposes tougher UN resolution on Syria

Source: Reuters | 16 Dec 2011

Russia offered the U.N. Security Council a new, stronger draft resolution on the violence in Syria, lifting possibility of U.N. action after the killing of 27 Syrian soldiers by deserters raised the spectre of a slide into civil war.

Western envoys said the Russian text was too weak, but they were willing to negotiate over it, offering the council a chance to overcome its deadlock and issue its first resolution on Syria's nine-month-old crackdown on protesters.

Western diplomats believe a firm Security Council resolution backed by Russia, Syria's longstanding ally, could make a real difference to the crisis.

In October, Russia and China vetoed a West European draft resolution that threatened sanctions. Russia has circulated its own draft twice, but Western nations said it made an unacceptable attempt to assign blame equally to government and opposition.

The draft circulated unexpectedly by Russia on Thursday expands and toughens Moscow's previous text, adding a new reference to "disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities".

The draft, obtained by Reuters, also "urges the Syrian government to put an end to suppression of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association".

Stronger text

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters it "considerably strengthens all aspects of the previous text" and that "clearly the Syrian authorities are singled out in a number of instances".

He said Russia did not believe both sides in Syria were equally responsible for violence, but acknowledged it called on all parties to halt violence and contained no threat of sanctions, which he said Moscow continued to oppose.

Western officials welcomed the Russian move, but French Ambassador Gerard Araud said it needed "a lot of amendments".

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she could not support some parts of the draft, but "hopefully we can work with the Russians, who for the first time at least are recognising that this is a matter that needs to go to the Security Council".

In London, British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said Russia might hold the key to tightening sanctions on Syria, but Britain would also look at ways of imposing new sanctions on Damascus through the European Union.

"We will continue to look for new ways in energy, in transport, as well as financial restrictions, to put pressure on the Syrian regime," Burt told Reuters in a telephone interview.

 

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