PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday France was consulting with Arab and European countries to create a contact group on Syria to find a solution to its crisis after Russia and China vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council.

France and Britain had crafted the resolution, which condemned the Syrian government's violent crackdown on 11 months of protests and backed an Arab League peace plan that would see President Bashar Assad give up power.

Sarkozy, speaking after his Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the twin veto had paralysed the international community, accused Moscow and Beijing of "encouraging the (Syrian) regime to continue with its cruel policies without an end.

"France is not giving up," Sarkozy said in a statement, saying France was in touch with Arab and European partners to create a "Friends of the Syrian People Group" that would marshal international support to implement the Arab League plan.

Sarkozy did not give further details on the initiative.

Last year he set up a Libya contact group to create a political roadmap backed by international players as part of efforts to oust Muammar Gaddafi, although Western powers have ruled out a Libya-style military intervention in Syria.

Russia and China joined forces in a double veto to quash the resolution despite the other 13 council members voting in favor of the measure, which would have said that the council "fully supports" the Arab League plan.

Juppe, who had earlier warned the veto-wielding countries, said everything had been done to accommodate them.

"This (veto) paralyzes the international community," Juppe said on France 2 television. "We could not accept equating a regime which is capable of crimes against humanity with opponents who are often fighting unarmed."

The diplomatic manoeuvres were lent urgency by reports from Syrian activists that more than 200 people had been killed in shelling by government forces in the restive city of Homs.

The resolution had been watered down to try to win Moscow's backing by excluding any mention of an arms embargo, sanctions, the departure of Assad or possible military action.

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