May 27, 2012 / 5:08 PM / 6 years ago

U.N. Security Council meets on Syria massacre, Russia skeptical

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council met on Sunday to discuss the recent massacre in the Syrian town of Houla, which the United Nations has blamed on the Syrian government but Damascus and Moscow suggested was due to a rebel attack.

At least 116 people, including many children, were killed in the Houla attack, the head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria General Robert Mood told the 15-nation council, according to a diplomat who was in the closed-door meeting. The diplomat spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alexander Pankin told reporters Moscow was skeptical about suggestions that the government was behind the massacre, saying it appeared most of the victims were killed with knives or shot at point-blank range.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, however, disagreed.

“It seems quite clear that the massacre in Houla was caused by heavy bombardment, by government artillery and tanks,” Lyall Grant said ahead of the meeting.

Diplomats said they hoped to agree on some kind of condemnation of the massacre, though Russia was clearly at odds with the Western powers regarding who was to blame.

The emergency council meeting was called after Russia rejected a French and British proposal for a statement condemning the massacre, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

Moscow, which remains a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, told other members of the 15-nation council that it wanted briefing from Mood before agreeing to a statement, envoys said.

Mood spoke to the Security Council via a videolink from Damascus.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Philip Barbara

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