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UN body to debate draft resolution supporting Arab League plan, which calls for President Assad to relinquish power.
The United Nations Security Council is expected to discuss the violent unrest in Syria during a closed-door session, the French mission to the UN says.
Diplomats will discuss possible next-steps to be taken during the session on Friday, and will probably debate a draft resolution to be presented by Morocco, UN diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
The draft resolution supports the Arab League’s call for Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, to transfer power to his deputy and set up a transition unity government to hold elections in the next two months.
“They [Morocco] are planning to circulate a draft resolution that represents the view of the vast majority of countries on
the Security Council,” a diplomat said.
The 15-member Security Council could vote as early as next week on the new draft resolution, which diplomats from the United Kingdom and France are crafting in consultation with Qatar, Morocco, the United States, Germany and Portugal, envoys said.
Richard Murphy, a former US ambassador to Syria, told Al Jazeera that if the Arab League’s proposal was backed by most Arab states, it would send “a very powerful message”.
“If there is a unified Arab position, this will be a very powerful message in New York for the security council powers to consider. If this turns into a revival of the old Cold War fights between Russia and the United States, then the people in Syria … are going to suffer. It need not happen that way,” he said.
The draft resolution calls for “a political transition” in Syria, but does not mention sanctions against Damascus, according to a copy of the document obtained by the Reuters news agency.
The draft’s supporters hope for a vote by next week, but will have to convince Russia and China, both permanent members of the body who used their veto powers to kill an earlier proposal.
The current draft resolution will replace one moved by Russia last month.
“There’s going to be a lot of negotiation back and forth,” Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler reported from the UN.
“Based on what this is saying, [the Russian delegation] will have issues with several [sections], one in particular: a line that says voluntary prevention of any arms transfer into Syria. We know that Russia has had problems with that in the past, and also some of the wording of that Arab League document that came out on Sunday.”
Nabil ElAraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the prime minister of Qatar and the head of the bloc’s Syria committee, are expected to brief the council on the situation in Syria and the League’s proposals early next week.
Elaraby and Hamad are expected to depart for New York, where the UN headquarters is located, on Saturday, and to hold meetings with officials starting on Monday.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said endorsement from the UN would “embolden” activists inside Syria.
“[The Arab League] is hoping that there will be a vote later in the week,” she said.
She also said that Russia, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, wants dialogue, a peaceful resolution to Syria’s crisis and is opposed to any military intervention, such as that which occurred in Libya.
Assad and his government have fiercely rejected the Arab League proposal, accusing the regional bloc of being part of a “conspiracy” against Syria.
The Arab League has been pushing for a Security Council resolution to end the Syrian government’s violent crackdown on protesters, which has killed thousands of people since demonstrations calling for reform began in March.
Hamad told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that elevating the Syria issue to the UN was “the only option”.
Elaraby’s latest announcement on Syria came after Gulf Arab observers, deployed to Syria as part of a previous Arab League initiative, began to pull out on Wednesday after their governments said they were “certain the bloodshed and killing of innocents would continue”.
“The departure of the GCC [Gulf Co-operation Council] countries will not have an impact on the mission’s work. We are all professionals here and we can do the job,” Hamad said.
In other Syria-related developments, Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, said on Wednesday that the UN could not keep track of the death toll in Syria’s crackdown on dissent that has already cost more than 5,400 lives.
On Thursday, violence between armed pro- and anti-Assad forces continued.
“The toll for [Thursday] has risen to 34 civilians killed by the security forces in several regions of Syria, mostly in Homs,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based opposition group, said.
Seven deserters and eight regular soldiers died in clashes, SOHR said, among them a colonel killed in Homs, a protest hub in central Syria.
The SOHR said the army launched an offensive on Thursday evening in the Karm al-Zeitoun district of Homs, killing 26 civilians, including nine children, and wounding dozens.
And in the city of Hama, also in central Syria, where the army launched a major assault on Tuesday, four civilians were killed, including a 58-year-old woman shot dead by snipers, the SOHR said.
Elsewhere in Syria, one civilian reportedly died in the northwestern province of Idlib, and two others were killed in the suburbs of Damascus, activists said.
In the southern province of Deraa, cradle of the uprising, a teenager was killed when security forces fired indiscriminately on a student demonstration in the town of Nawa, the SOHR said.
Just north of Damascus, security forces attacked Douma, another flashpoint town that activists say was in the hands of army defectors last week before a withdrawal.
“Violent clashes pitted security forces against groups of deserters at the Misraba bridge near the town of Douma, which was rocked by strong explosions,” the SOHR said.
It said more than 200 arrests were made in the town during the assault, although there was no independent confirmation of the reports as foreign media are restricted in their coverage of Syria’s unrest which erupted in mid-March.