UN Security Council to Discuss Syrian Crisis on Friday

Posted January 27th, 2012 at 1:50 am (UTC-5)
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The U.N. Security Council will discuss the crisis in Syria Friday, as the Arab and Western nations prepare a joint plan aimed at ending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on dissent.

France's U.N. mission announced the unexpected meeting of the 15-member council Thursday on its Twitter account.

Officials say diplomats could present a new draft resolution supporting the Arab League's plan that calls for Mr. Assad to transfer power to a deputy and form a national unity government to prepare for elections.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani are expected to formally present the plan to the Security Council next week, and a vote is expected soon thereafter.

The latest resolution is seen as a response to an earlier Russian proposal, which Western diplomats rejected as being too weak.

Diplomats who have seen the latest draft proposal say it hopes to attract Russian support by using language that may leave open the possibility for Mr. Assad to stay in office, but in a limited role. They say it hints at, but does not call for, U.N. sanctions against Syria.

Veto-wielding Security Council member Russia has repeatedly promised to block any resolution calling for Mr. Assad's removal, economic sanctions, or military action.

Russia and China vetoed a European-led attempt in October to sanction Syria over its 10-month campaign of violence against protesters, saying it was an attempt at regime change by Western governments.

Meanwhile, violence continued Thursday in Syria. Rights activists say Syrian troops stormed a flashpoint suburb of Damascus, rounding up people in house-to-house raids as the anti-government uprising edges closer to the capital.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces detained 200 people Thursday during raids in Douma, a hotbed of protests and armed rebellion against President Assad.

The London-based group said troops entered Douma early Thursday, days after being forced to leave because of heavy fighting with army defectors. Even as street fighting raged, tens of thousands of backers of President Assad poured into the streets of Damascus in a show of support for his embattled government. Similar pro-Assad rallies were held in other cities.

The United Nations said last month that violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syrian authorities blame the revolt on armed terrorists and accuse them of killing about 2,000 security force members.