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Russia urged not to veto Syria plan


Downing Street warned Russia today not to block efforts at the United Nations to bring a peaceful resolution to unrest in Syria.

Foreign Secretary William Hague was today flying to New York to lend Britain's support to an Arab-backed draft resolution calling on the country's authoritarian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down and pave the way for a transfer of power.

The Arab League's secretary general Nabil Elaraby will tomorrow brief Security Council members, including Mr Hague, on the findings of its recent mission to monitor the Assad regime's response to widespread protests against his rule.

The suspension of the mission at the weekend was followed by an upsurge in violence, with reports of at least 62 deaths as regime forces stormed rebel strongholds in the capital Damascus and around the country.

Western powers including Britain and France are pushing for the adoption this week of the resolution tabled by current Security Council member Morocco, which would give international backing to an Arab League timetable for the transition of power in Syria to a unity government, followed by free elections.

But Russia was today resisting a swift vote, saying it wanted to "study the recommendations and conclusions of the observer mission in detail" before moving to a substantive discussion in the Security Council.

Deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov last week signalled that Moscow may wield its veto to block the draft resolution in its current form. In October, Russia and China blocked a Western-backed draft resolution condemning Assad's government for its crackdown on protesters.

Downing Street said today: "We believe that the UN must act to support the people of Syria and that Russia can no longer explain blocking the UN and providing cover for the regime's brutal repression."

A spokeswoman added: "There is hope to agree a UN Security Council resolution this week and to make it very clear to President Assad and his regime that the killing must stop.

"We've been working in New York to support a text drafted by Arab members of the Security Council, which promotes a regional approach to the crisis.

"The Foreign Secretary is travelling to New York to show support for the Arab League and their work to bring a peaceful and Syrian-led solution to the current crisis."