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
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
people
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Supply Chain Manager

Not Specified: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's most progressive and innova...

SQL Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SQL Develope...

Senior .NET Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This exciting c...

Business Analyst - Horsham - Competitive Salary

Negotiable: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Business Analyst - Horsham, West Su...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor