Sun, Apr 15, 2012 - Page 1 News List

UN vote on Syrian mission faces Russian doubts

AFP, United Nations

The UN Security Council was scheduled to vote yesterday on a Western-drafted resolution allowing a ceasefire observer mission in Syria even though Russia’s support was in doubt.

The US called for the vote after a second day of wrangling with Russia over security guarantees for the first 30 unarmed military monitors who UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan wants in Syria early next week.

Russia also opposed the council’s demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carry out a promise to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from Syrian cities.

Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he was not “completely satisfied” with the talks held at the UN on Friday.

Negotiations had been “rather difficult,” Churkin said, while insisting that Russia wanted a vote yesterday that would ensure the Syrian ceasefire could be “reinforced.”

Neither the US nor its allies are certain that the resolution will escape a new veto.

A new version of the resolution drafted by the US with Britain and France was sent to other council members late on Friday for national governments to decide which way to vote.

Russia has also registered a shorter version of the draft for an eventual vote.

Both versions authorize the first 30 monitors in a force in Syria that would grow to more than 200 if the ceasefire started on Thursday holds.

Meanwhile, forces loyal to al-Assad shelled the Jurat al-Shayah and Al-Qarabis districts in the city of Homs for about an hour yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving any immediate word on any casualties.

Annan has asked for approval for the monitors and for the council to call for all six points of his peace plan to be carried out. The Syrian government has yet to pull troops and heavy weapons from protest cities.

Churkin said Russia wanted a brief resolution to get “some boots on the ground” and then negotiate the mandate for the full mission.

Despite their past vetoes on Syria, Russia and China have strongly committed to Annan’s six-point peace plan and say they are putting increased pressure on Damascus.

However, the US and European powers say there must be specific security guarantees and terms set out to the Syrian government before the advance mission leaves.

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