UPDATE 3-West pushes UN Syria vote despite Russian criticism

Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:20pm EDT

* Talks on draft resolution resume Saturday at 1500 GMT

* U.N. wants to authorize deployment of up to 30 monitors

By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, April 13 (Reuters) - Western powers on Friday tried to overcome Russian criticism of a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution authorizing an advance team of U.N. observers to monitor Syria's fragile ceasefire and said they hoped to put it to a vote this weekend.

The draft, obtained by Reuters, calls for the initial deployment of up to 30 unarmed U.N. observers to Syria in line with a request by U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan. But it also criticizes Damascus for human rights violations and hints at the possibility of further action by the 15-nation council.

"There was a negotiation, there is not yet an agreement," French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters. "It's very tough, but there will be a vote tomorrow in any case."

Diplomats said the U.S. and European delegations will revise the draft and circulate a new version to the council that they hope will be acceptable to Moscow.

The council will reconvene on Saturday at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) after council members have had a chance to receive instructions from their capitals.

The U.S.-drafted resolution was co-sponsored by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and Morocco, the sole Arab nation on the council.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters after Friday's inconclusive negotiations that there had been "some good discussion" - but not good enough.

"I'm not completely satisfied with the outcome of this discussion but ... let's see what comes out as a result," he said. "We need to cut off all the things which are not really necessary for this particular purpose."

Several diplomats said negotiations with Russia to find mutually acceptable language were slow and difficult.

U.N. diplomats say Syrian ally Russia supports Annan's peace efforts but is working hard to shield Damascus from what it sees as a Western push for Libya-style "regime change." Russia and China have vetoed two resolutions condemning President Bashar al-Assad's 13-month assault on anti-government protesters.

The resolution is a response to Annan's request that the council move quickly to get the first members of an observer force, which will ultimately have up to 250 monitors, in Syria to lock in the fragile ceasefire.

U.N. OBSERVERS ON STAND-BY

"The (U.N.) Department of Peacekeeping Operations is working around the clock to find the necessary number of troops for the full observer mission eventually," said Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.

"At the moment we have the advance team standing by to board planes and to get there, to get themselves on the ground as soon as possible," he said.

A U.N.-backed ceasefire aimed at halting more than a year of bloodshed in Syria appeared to be holding on Thursday, but forces loyal to Assad fought rebels near the border with Turkey on Friday, threatening the truce.

The latest U.S. draft would have the council say Damascus should "ensure full, unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access throughout Syria for all (observer) mission personnel as deemed necessary by the mission."

The first U.S. draft had made a number of demands on the Syrian government and did not explicitly demand anything of the opposition. That, council diplomats said, annoyed Russia.

The latest U.S. draft includes proposed Russian language about the rebels, saying the council "demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms."

It also has the council "condemning the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities, recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable."

It ends with a vague threat of "further steps" by the council if Syria does not comply with the resolution.

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