UNITED NATIONS The Arab League chief and the Qatari prime minister will present an Arab peace plan for Syria to ambassadors in the U.N. Security Council in New York early next week, the council president said on Thursday.
South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Baso Sangqu told reporters in New York that the meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who heads the League's Syria committee, will brief the 15-nation council.
South Africa holds the council's rotating presidency this month.
Western diplomats said the briefing will set the stage for a new showdown with Russia over its ally Syria and a Western-Arab draft resolution that backs the Arab League call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to his deputy to set up a unity government and prepare elections.
The Security Council could vote as early as next week on the new draft resolution, which delegates from Britain and France are crafting in consultation with Qatar, Morocco, the United States, Germany and Portugal, envoys said. The new draft is to replace a Russian text that Western diplomats say is too weak.
Russia, however, says its draft remains in play. Western diplomats said they hope to negotiate with the Russians and incorporate elements of the Russian draft into the Western-Arab text to satisfy Moscow and avoid a Russian veto.
The Moroccan delegation was expected to meet with Russian and Chinese diplomats to present them with the latest version of the Western-Arab draft resolution, diplomats told Reuters. The Moroccans, they said, will then present it to the full 15-nation council on Friday.
The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, calls for a "political transition" in Syria. It does not call for U.N. sanctions against Damascus, something Moscow has said it could not support.
Russia, together with China, vetoed a European-drafted resolution in October that condemned Syria and threatened it with sanctions over its 10-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. It is unclear whether Russia is ready to wield its veto once again to block council action on Syria.
Several Western envoys told Reuters that Russia might find it difficult to veto a resolution that is simply intended to provide support for the Arab League.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York and Edmund Blair in Cairo; editing by Christopher Wilson)