US 'cautiously optimistic' on Syria resolution support

AFP, Friday 3 Feb 2012

A senior State Department official says the United States is 'cautiously optimistic' about winning Russia's support for a UN Security Council resolution aimed at ending Syria's domestic crisis

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves as she leaves the Treaty Room at the State Department in Washington Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2011. (Photo:AP)

The United States is "cautiously optimistic" Russia will support a draft UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria's crackdown, a senior State Department official said Friday.

US Secretary of State Hillar Clinton, who was heading to an international security conference in Munich, planned to speak by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about it later in the day Friday amid a US push for passage of the resolution, the official said.

"We're cautiously optimistic," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said about winning Russia's support.

The latest draft does not explicitly call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down or mention an arms embargo or sanctions, though it "fully supports" an Arab League plan to facilitate a democratic transition.

"From our perspective, this meets the objective of supporting the demands of the Syrian people and the Arab League... providing a peaceful Syrian-led political path forward," a senior State Department official said Friday.

"This is the kind of resolution the entire council should support and the secretary and Ambassador Susan Rice are working the phones, working the halls to get a strong vote in the coming hours and days," said the official."

The official said Clinton was going to talk with Lavrov "this morning" to push for Russia's support.

The latest attempt at consensus emerged amid an impasse in the UN Security Council, with Russia leading the opposition to a tougher draft resolution authored by Western powers and the Arab League.

The new draft "fully supports" the 22 January Arab League request that Assad transfer power to a deputy and a government of national unity within two months but does not call on him to step down, according to a copy obtained by AFP.

Instead, it calls for a "Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system... including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition under the League of Arab States' auspices, in accordance with the timetable set out by the League of Arab States."

Like previous versions, the draft "condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from."

It was not clear whether the new draft had addressed Moscow's concerns, and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the decision to send the draft back to governments "does not prejudge in any way" whether it would be approved or not.

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