West pushes UN Syria vote with Russian criticism

West wants Friday vote on resolution to authorize immediate deployment of team to monitor Syrian compliance with ceasefire.

United Nations Security Council 311 (R) (photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
United Nations Security Council 311 (R)
(photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
UNITED NATIONS - Western powers brushed aside Russian criticism of a US-drafted Security Council resolution authorizing an advance team of UN observers to monitor Syria's fragile ceasefire and said they hoped to put it to a vote on Friday.
The UN missions of Britain, France and Germany said on their Twitter feeds that the US-drafted resolution will be co-sponsored by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and Morocco, the sole Arab nation on the council.
The draft, obtained by Reuters, calls for the initial deployment of up to 30 unarmed UN observers to Syria in line with a request by UN-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who had criticized an earlier version of the US text, presented the 15-nation council with his own draft that Moscow would prefer to vote on.
"We have put together a shorter version of (the US) text," Churkin told reporters after closed-door discussions on Syria. "We had this understanding yesterday that it should be to the point, pragmatic, specific about putting in boots on the ground, (an) advance party of the monitoring team."
He said the council would reconvene on Syria at 3 p.m. EST. It was not clear if that council would be able to agree on a single text that could be voted on Friday. One council diplomat said he doubted the vote would come before Saturday.
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UN diplomats say Syrian ally Russia supports Annan's peace efforts but is working hard to shield Damascus from what it fears is a Western push for Libya-style "regime change." Russia and China have vetoed two resolutions condemning President Bashar Assad's 13-month assault on anti-government protesters.
The competing draft resolutions are a response to Annan's request that the council move quickly to get the first members of an observer force, which will ultimately have up to 250 monitors, in Syria to lock in the fragile ceasefire.
Observers on standby
Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the UN-Arab League envoy hoped the council would pass the resolution on Friday.
"The (UN) Department of Peacekeeping Operations is working around the clock to find the necessary number of troops for the full observer mission eventually," he said.
"At the moment we have the advance team standing by to board planes and to get there, to get themselves on the ground as soon as possible," he said.
A UN-backed ceasefire aimed at halting more than a year of bloodshed in Syria appeared to be holding on Thursday, but forces loyal to Assad fought rebels near the border with Turkey on Friday, threatening the truce.
The latest US draft would have the council say Damascus should "ensure full, unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access throughout Syria for all (observer) mission personnel as deemed necessary by the mission."
The first US draft had made a number of demands on the Syrian government and did not explicitly demand anything of the opposition. That, council diplomats said, annoyed Russia.
The new US draft includes proposed Russian language about the opposition, saying the council "demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms."
It also has the council "condemning the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities, recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable."