Syria crisis: Russia circulates surprise UN resolution

Some Syrians opposed to President Assad have formed the Free Syria Army

Russia has circulated a UN Security Council resolution aimed at resolving the crisis in Syria, in a move that surprised Western nations.

The draft condemns the violence by both Syria's government and the opposition, but does not mention sanctions.

Western nations said the proposal was not tough enough but that they were prepared to work on the document.

The West has been pushing the council to act on Syria for months, but Russia and China have vetoed such proposals.

In the latest violence in Syria, 27 security forces members were reportedly killed by army deserters.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths occurred in the restive southern province of Deraa.

International journalists face severe restrictions on their movements in Syria, and it is hard to verify reports.

The UN believes more than 5,000 people have been killed in nine months of unrest, which the government of President Bashar al-Assad blames on "armed terrorist gangs".

In a recent interview with the US network ABC, he insisted he had given no orders for violence to be used against protesters.

Clinton hopes

Russia circulated the draft resolution among the other 14 UN Security Council members on Thursday.

Analysis

Western diplomats say they are willing to negotiate the draft, but they want changes - such as much stronger language on human rights abuses, and endorsement of Arab League sanctions.

Crucially they say the resolution should spell out that Damascus is primarily responsible for the violence, and not assign equal blame to the government and the opposition.

Negotiations will be tough, but there is more hope now than there was even a day ago that some kind of resolution might be agreed.

Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said the document urged an end to the violence, but did not mention any sanctions.

"The reaction of colleagues in the Security Council was very constructive," he said.

"They made a number of comments as to the text... and we said that we were looking forward to working with them, in order to adopt a text, a resolution of the security council, which will really bring about an end to violence and crisis in Syria."

The draft demands that "all parties" in Syria stop violence.

But it also includes a new reference to "disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities", in what is seen by some analysts as toughening of Moscow's position towards Damascus.

The document also "urges the Syrian government to put an end to suppression of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association".

Western diplomats said the current draft did not fully reflect the gravity of the human rights situation in Syria, but added that they would negotiate on the text.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that there were "some issues in it that we would not be able to support".

"There's unfortunately a seeming parity between the government and peaceful protesters and then other Syrians who are trying to defend themselves, but we are going to study the draft carefully."

But Mrs Clinton added: "Hopefully we can work with the Russians."

The US and its European allies insist that the government in Damascus must bear primary responsibility for the violence.

Russia accuses the West of trying to use the UN to force regime change in Syria.

In October, Russia and China vetoed European draft resolution that contained a threat of sanctions.

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