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Russia circulates new UN council draft on Syria

Russia surprised fellow UN Security Council members on Thursday with a proposed new resolution to address the rising violence in Syria.

Russia surprised fellow UN Security Council members on Thursday with a proposed new resolution to address the rising violence in Syria.

Western members of the council who have been pressing for tough measures against President Bashar Assad's regime welcomed the move, but said it didn't go far enough because it didn't include an arms embargo or other sanctions.

The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began. (Syria TV/Associated Press)

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the text calls for an end to the violence that the UN estimates has killed 5,000 people over nine months.

In the draft, obtained by The Associated Press, the Security Council "demands that all parties in Syria immediately stop any violence irrespective of where it comes from."

It also "urges the Syrian government to put an end to suppression of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association" and called for speedy investigations into events that killed or injured civilians and security personnel.

The League of Arab States is encouraged to keep working with all parties to end the violence and promote political dialogue, including through deployment of league observers to assess the situation inside the country, according to the draft. And the government and opposition are urged to work with the Arab League.

Draft doesn't mention sanctions

But the text doesn't mention sanctions. The draft also says the council "decides that nothing in this resolution shall be interpreted as an authorization of any sort of military interference in Syria by anyone."

France, Germany and Britain said they believe that sanctions and tougher language are necessary in the text, and hope to negotiate with Russia to strengthen the proposal.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters that "there are some issues in it that we would not be able to support" including "a seeming parity between the government and peaceful protesters."

Clinton also said the Arab League needs to weigh in on the text, but she welcomed that the Russians "are recognizing that this is a matter that needs to go to the Security Council."

French Ambassador Gerard Araud noted that Russia's surprise circulation of the new draft came on the heels of last week's "shocking" briefing about the situation in Syria by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay.

"We think it is because Russia is feeling the pressure of the international community," Araud said.

A Western-backed Security Council resolution condemning the bloodshed in Syria was killed with a double-veto by Russia and China in October.

Araud said France is "ready to work" with Russia on the proposal "even though we consider this text unbalanced."

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said his country believes the text "is insufficient" but is willing to discuss changes.

One of his main objections to the draft is its inference that Syrian authorities and demonstrators are equally responsible for the violence.

"We don't want an equivalence of the parties," Wittig said. "We need to clearly say who is responsible for the spiral of violence and that, of course, are the Syrian authorities."

British Ambassador and political co-oordinator Michael Tatham said his country wants "a Security Council resolution that matches the gravity of the situation on the ground in Syria."

He added: "We will be looking to secure a text that adequately and appropriately reflects the very strong human rights concerns" of the UN.

On Thursday, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced a voluntary plan for Canadians who wish to leave Syria.

"The time to leave Syria is now," Baird said at a news conference in Ottawa. There are an estimated 5,000 Canadians in the country, but only 1,500 have registered with the Canadians Abroad service.

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