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UN Chief Says Security Council Must Overcome Differences On Syria

January 31, 2012

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said ahead of an eagerly awaited Security Council meeting on Syria that the council needs to overcome differences over an Arab League plan to bring an end to violence there.

Veto-wielding Russia opposes the proposal, saying it puts Syria on a "path to civil war."

Speaking on a visit to Jordan, Ban said he hopes a Security Council meeting on Syria later in the day would be an opportunity to bridge differences.

"I sincerely hope that this meeting attended by many high-level representatives, including foreign ministers of some countries, will give a good momentum and opportunity to bridge their gaps of understanding and how to approach, to address, and solve this crisis," Ban said when questioned about Russia's opposition.

The Arab League, backed by the United States, France, and Britain, will ask the council to adopt a resolution that calls on President Bashar al-Assad to hand over "full authority" to a deputy who will form a national unity government ahead of elections.

The text also reportedly insists there will be no foreign military intervention in the conflict.

The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, has called on that world body to end its "neglect" of the violence in Syria. Rice said the draft resolution was "straightforward."

In October, veto-holding douncil members Russia and China -- both traditional Syria allies -- blocked a resolution condemning the crackdown in Syria.

Speaking during a trip to Australia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that "the solution should be a Syrian one," saying, "We have never said anywhere that keeping [Assad] in power should be the precondition for a settlement."

"[If the Syrian opposition] refuses to negotiate with representatives of the [Syrian] regime, what is the alternative -- finish off the regime?" Lavrov said. "If they demand that Assad step down but he doesn't, what should we do, call in the aviation and bomb [Syria]? We've been through that already. The Security Council will never approve that, I guarantee you."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the British and French foreign ministers were heading to New York to push for backing of the draft resolution.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "has been trying to get Foreign Minister Lavrov on the phone for about 24 hours. That's proven difficult."

Activists say more than 100 people have been killed since January 30, which activists said marked one of the bloodiest days of the rebellion against Assad's regime.

Rights activists reported that Syrian troops were crushing pockets of resistance on the outskirts of Damascus as they advanced further into eastern suburbs previously held by antigovernment forces after an offensive began on January 31.

Assad earlier this month accused "a foreign conspiracy" of trying to destabilize Syria and vowed to restore order by "hitting terrorists with an iron fist."

The UN said recently that more than 5,400 people have been killed in the last 11 months, since the uprising began, and added that violence had increased to the point where it could no longer keep track of the death toll.

Compiled from agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/un_chief_appeal_security_council_differences_over_syria_int/24469208.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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