UN Security Council Envoys To Discuss Syria Debate

Published February 1, 2012 6:27PM (EST)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Ambassadors to the U.N. Security Council were meeting Wednesday afternoon for a closed session on a draft resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step aside, diplomats said.

Council diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are private said they hope to get a sense of whether Russia will negotiate on the text.

Russian officials have said they'll oppose the resolution if it contains any hint of a military intervention or regime change in Syria, a major ally.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the foreign ministers of Britain and France joined Arab League officials in a high-level meeting at the U.N. on Tuesday urging council members to approve the resolution.

Amnesty International called on Russia to stop what it said was its "unconscionable" obstruction of U.N. efforts to help end the bloodshed in Syria. The U.N. said several weeks ago that at least 5,400 people have been killed in the 10-month-old government crackdown on a civilian uprising.

Russia and China used a double veto in October to block an earlier Security Council resolution condemning the violence in Syria.

"Russia's threats to abort a binding U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria for the second time are utterly irresponsible," Jose Luis Diaz, Amnesty International's U.N. representative, said Wednesday.

"Russia bears a heavy responsibility for allowing the brutal crackdown on legitimate dissent in Syria to continue unchecked," he said.

Diaz noted that Russia is the Syrian government's largest overseas arms supplier and reportedly has continued arms shipments to the country in recent weeks.

By Salon Staff

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