UN Security Council diplomats have toned down a resolution on Syria in a move apparently aimed at overcoming Russia’s opposition to an earlier draft, the BBC reported on Thursday.
The new text, submitted by Morocco, no longer explicitly calls on President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power, which was a key point of an Arab League plan to settle the Syrian conflict.
At least 5,400 people have been killed in the Syrian government's 11-month crackdown on protesters, according to the UN. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda and say more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed.
Russia along with China already vetoed a European-drafted resolution containing the threat of sanctions against Syria in October 2011.
Human rights organization Amnesty International has advised Russia against blocking international efforts to end ongoing violence in Syria and to join a binding UN Security Council resolution.
Russia, one of Assad’s firm supporters during the uprising against his regime, indicated earlier this week that it would veto the draft resolution calling on Assad to step down and providing for “further measures” should he refuse. Moscow has proposed its own draft, which the West criticized as being too soft.
Some Western countries have been trying to persuade Moscow to support a resolution effectively authorizing a military operation, but Russia has repeatedly insisted that the Western drive for a stronger crackdown on Syria is preparation for a “Libyan scenario.”
In Libya, rebels ousted and killed long-standing dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 after a months-long military standoff in which they received assistance from NATO forces.
On Wednesday, Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said Russia would vote against the Morocco-submitted draft on Syria if it turned out unacceptable for Moscow.