UN waters down Syria proposals in bid to win Russia's backing

Call for Assad's removal is dropped and arms embargo shelved in effort to placate Moscow

Washington

UN Security Council diplomats yesterday were moving towards a watered-down resolution on Syria that would secure a yes vote from Russia by removing a call for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and dropping direct threats of an arms embargo or new sanctions.

Amid continuing intense negotiations, US, Arab and Russian officials all sounded more upbeat over prospects for an agreed text. In fact, any consensus would be acknowledgement that the tougher terms championed by the Arab League and backed by the West could not survive Moscow's veto.

In a gesture to the Arab League, which last weekend withdrew its monitors from Syria as the violence continued unchecked, the latest version "fully supports" the League's decision to "facilitate a political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system". Gone, however, is the explicit demand that Mr Assad delegate powers to his deputy within 15 days, and that a government of national unity be installed.

Although China – another permanent council member with veto powers – also disapproved of the original text circulated by Morocco, the loudest objections have come from Russia.

Moscow is determined to prevent any repeat of what happened over Libya, when it let through a UN resolution that helped bring down Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – and, as the Kremlin saw it, underlined Russia's scant influence in world affairs. For that same reason, Moscow will do nothing that undermines virtually its last significant ally in the Arab world. Another factor however is the lucrative arms export trade with Syria, including equipment used to suppress the current protest. Despite overwhelming international criticism of the Assad regime's brutal tactics, the Putin/Medvedev government intends those sales to continue. "As of today there are no restrictions on the delivery of weapons and we must fulfil our obligations, and this what we are doing," the Deputy Defence Minister, Anatoly Antonov, said.

Nevertheless, the Arab League which has lobbied hard but now apparently in vain for a genuinely strong UN response, insisted that even a weaker resolution would help. "It will still put pressure on the Syrian government, because they realise that Russia cannot stand up forever," said Nabil al-Araby, the League's chief. "Russia does not want to be against the people," he added.

It was still uncertain last night when a final vote would be taken, despite the insistence by the US and its allies that the Council act swiftly. The decision ought to be simple Hillary Clinton declared this week: "Are you on the side of the Syrian people, or are you on the side of a brutal dictatorial regime?"

Suggested Topics
News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital