Envoys: Russia may not veto UN council draft on Syria

West and Arab League amend Syria draft to reassure Russia; most UN council members support new draft, envoys say; if Moscow votes for resolution, it will likely be adopted unanimously.

United Nations Security Council 311 (R) (photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
United Nations Security Council 311 (R)
(photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Moscow may agree notto veto the latest version of a European-Arab draft resolutionendorsing an Arab League plan for Syrian President Bashar Assad to give up power when the UN Security Council voteson it, envoys said on Friday.
"I think Moscow will be OK with it," a council diplomat toldReuters on condition of anonymity. "We're not 100 percent surebut I think they've gotten the assurances they wanted."

Morocco circulated an amended draft resolution to the15-nation council on Thursday after Russian Ambassador VitalyChurkin told a closed-door session of the 15-nation body Moscowwould veto the draft if it were put to a vote on Friday with aphrase saying the council "fully supports" an Arab League plancalling for Syria's president to step aside, diplomats said.

That phrase remains in the text. But several diplomats saidChurkin's threat of a veto had more to do with the timing thanthe substance of the resolution and predicted that the Russianslikely would abstain or vote for the resolution.

"He made the threat but I don't think he'll necessarily haveto follow through with it," a diplomat said on condition ofanonymity. "We included some new language that Russia wanted."

Morocco's UN envoy, Mohammed Loulichki, told reportersafter Thursday's inconclusive council meeting he would seek avote on the amended draft resolution as soon as possible. FrenchAmbassador Gerard Araud said the council may vote on theresolution as early as on Friday or Saturday.

The council will meet to discuss the latest draft later onFriday.

A senior US official declined to predict what the finalvote would be but said the majority of the council would vote infavor of it. "We are cautiously optimistic that we will have avery strong show of support for this resolution," the officialsaid.

Moscow received the new draft resolution overnight and thegovernment was expected to make a decision on whether or not toveto it in the course of the day, diplomats said.

If Moscow votes for the resolution, it likely will beadopted unanimously, as China, South Africa, India and Pakistanare expected to follow Moscow's lead, UN envoys said. Anabstention from Moscow would allow the resolution to pass,although it would register a certain level of disapproval.