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Syria: UN diplomats agree to drop call for al Assad to resign

To placate Russia and salvage the possibility of action, diplomats at the Security Council are now stopping short of calling for regime change and an end to arms sales to the Syrian Arab Republic.

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Bashar Ja’Afari, Syria's ambassador to the U.N., speaks Tuesday at a Security Council meeting on the crisis in Syria. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) (Mario Tama/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – Diplomats at the UN Security Council here began work today on a new draft resolution which stops short of calling for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step down, according to The New York Times.

The draft measure would still call for a transition to democracy, according to The Associated Press, which said this was in support of the Arab League’s decision of Jan 22 to work toward pluralism in Syria.

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Russia, a permanent member of the 15-member Security Council, had consistently threatened to veto any resolution that called for regime change in Syria, which has been in the throes of a popular uprising for over a year that has been met with a bloody crackdown by the Syrian government, an authoritarian dynasty for over 40 years.

The AP also reported today that Russia has insisted it will not stop selling arms to the Syrian government even as it continues a brutal crack down. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in December put the death toll at over 4,000 people, including hundreds of children, according to The Guardian.

According to The Times, voices at the Security Council nevertheless approached unanimity in insisting that something be down.

“We have more work to do, but I think it was a constructive session conducted in a good spirit,” Susan E. Rice, the US envoy to the UN, was quoted as saying after emerging from a three-hour meeting late Wednesday. “Everyone is trying to approach this in a constructive and rational way. That in itself is progress.”

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According to the Times, the latest version of the resolution was crafted by Morocco, which dropped Arab League-supporting passages that called for an end to arms sales and the removal of Assad.

The Times cited unnamed diplomats who said that the new version was tantamount to the meaning of Arab League declaration, even if its language was less explicit than the wording of the earlier resolution circulated this week.

Holding a vote on Friday remains a possibility, The Times said, citing diplomats at the Security Council.

In a statement yesterday, Amnesty International said 2,600 people had been killed in the Syrian violence since Russia first objected in October to UN intervention.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120202/syria-un-diplomats-agree-drop-call-al-assad-resign