UNITED NATIONS - Russia and the European Union circulated on Friday separate draft UN Security Council resolutions to authorize the deployment to Syria of up to 300 more ceasefire observers and there were hopes for a vote in the coming days, diplomats said.
There are seven monitors already in Syria after the council authorized an advance team of up to 30 on Saturday. A new resolution is needed for a further "initial deployment" of up to 300 as recommended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Some council members, however, have expressed reluctance to give swift approval for an expanded observer mission because of concern about the failure of the Syrian government to halt the violence, return troops to barracks and withdraw heavy weapons.
At least 23 people were killed on Friday, 10 of them in a roadside bomb targeting security forces and most of the others in shelling by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces on the city of Homs, further undermining the truce.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement published on the ministry's website on Friday: "Active work is taking place on the basis of the Russian text in order to take the decision tomorrow."
Council diplomats confirmed that negotiations are focusing on the Russian draft.
Traditionally efforts are made to combine similar drafts. A council diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the resolution could be voted on over the weekend, though another envoy said it would most likely be held next week.
Both the Russian and EU texts, obtained by Reuters, authorize the deployment of 300 unarmed observers for an initial three month period and call upon Syria to implement its pledges under a six point plan by UN-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan.
A key difference is the EU text, which diplomats say was drafted by France, "underlines the need for the Syrian government to agree rapidly with the United Nations the independent use of air assets" by the observer mission.
The Russian draft resolution makes no mention of air assets and is a little less critical of Damascus than the EU text.
Syria has dismissed any need for UN aircraft, though UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said helicopters and other military hardware would be necessary and that would be discussed more closely with Syrian authorities.
A rare Russian draft
Assad's 13-month assault on pro-democracy protesters sparked an uprising that has brought Syria to the brink of civil war.
The 15-member Security Council has been divided between Western countries that want to topple Assad and Russia and China, which support him and have twice vetoed council resolutions condemning Assad.
But on Saturday Russia and China joined the rest of the council in voting for a resolution to authorize the deployment of the first batch of UN monitors.
It is unusual for Russia to draft a Security Council text. Russia has only recently begun drafting council resolutions on issues like piracy in Somalia, the conflict in Libya and the crisis in its ally and top weapons customer Syria.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday: "We should do everything we can to adopt, as soon as possible, a second resolution that will approve a full-scale observer mission."
The United States has voiced concern over approving an expanded monitoring mission before the Assad government fully complies with demands to halt the violence and pull back troops and heavy weapons.
"We want to see monitors be able to get in. But they've got to be able to do so in the permissive conditions," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Friday, saying the United States had "extreme concerns" about the continued violence.
"It's got to be a true independent international monitoring effort ... and not regime controlled," she said.
Annan's deputy Jean-Marie Guehenno told the Security Council on Thursday that the swift deployment of more observers to Syria was needed despite continued risks and persistent violence.
Annan's peace plan calls for an end to fighting by government security forces and rebels, withdrawal of heavy weapons from towns, the return of the army to barracks, humanitarian access and dialogue between the government and opposition aimed at a "political transition."
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