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February 01, 2012

UN Security Council Still Discussing Syrian Resolution

U.N. Security Council diplomats continue talks Thursday aimed at convincing Russia to support a resolution that endorses an Arab League plan to end months of deadly violence in Syria.

Western diplomats said that some progress was made Wednesday during three hours of closed-door negotiations in New York.

Russian opposition

But Russia has expressed reservations at the current resolution, which supports a plan calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to a deputy and form a unity government to prepare for elections.

Russia, a key Syrian ally and veto-wielding member of the Council, has promised to reject any text that hints at regime change or that does not explicitly rule out foreign military intervention.

New draft expected

Diplomats said a new draft text that aims to address Russian concerns is set to be submitted to Security Council members on Thursday, with a vote expected to come by the end of the week.

Russia's U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said Wednesday a change in the current language calling for President Assad to step aside "would make it easier for us" to approve.

US appeal

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated Wednesday that the Security Council must move quickly. She said council members must decide whether they side with the Syrian people, or what she referred to as the "brutal" dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad.

Western diplomats have tried to reassure Moscow that the draft resolution would not lead to military intervention in Syria's 11-month opposition uprising against Assad. Moscow wants to avoid a repeat of a 2011 council resolution used by NATO to justify intervening in Libya on the side of rebels who ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Death toll mounts

The Syrian government accuses armed terrorists of driving the anti-Assad revolt and killing 2,000 security personnel. The United Nations estimated the death toll from the unrest at 5,400 last month, before it stopped updating the figure because of difficulties in obtaining information.

Meanwhile, Syria's death toll continues to mount, with opposition activists reporting at least 59 deaths across the war-torn country on Wednesday.

More than 300 people were killed nationwide during the past week alone. Much of the violence has occurred near Damascus as government troops drove the rebel Free Syrian Army out of the city's eastern suburbs during several days of heavy fighting.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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