Syrian Forces Press Crackdown After U.N. Body Disagrees on Draft

Syrian forces pressed their crackdown against anti-government protesters as the United Nations argued over a resolution that would pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to his deputy.

Eleven Syrians were killed today in violence across the country as security forces stormed and shelled towns on the outskirts of Damascus, the Syrian capital, Al Arabiya television said, citing activists. More than 100 Syrians died in clashes yesterday, the highest number in one day since the uprising started, Al Jazeera television reported today, citing activists.

The violence comes after the UN Security Council discussed yesterday a revised draft resolution calling on Assad to transfer power to his deputy. Previous language, which urged Assad to abandon power to pave way for “fair elections,” was replaced with a call for him to hand over “full authority” to his deputy and for the “formation of a national unity government,” according to the draft obtained by Bloomberg News.

Opponents of Assad’s government broke into Syria’s embassy in Cairo yesterday, Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency reported, without saying where it got the information. An oil pipeline was damaged by a blast in a town near Deir Al Zour, after shelling by the Syrian army, Al Jazeera television said.

Eleven months into the unrest, the European Union and the U.S. have yet to overcome Russia’s resistance at the UN’s decision-making body to hold Assad responsible for a crackdown that the UN estimates has killed more than 5,000 people.

Draft Changes

“Unfortunately, the draft that we saw today not only ignored our red lines, but also added some new elements that we find unacceptable as a matter of principle,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters after yesterday’s meeting. “The Security Council cannot go about imposing political solutions in crisis situations in various countries of the world.”

To mollify Russia, which says Western powers are seeking regime change in Syria, the draft underwent three changes. Previous language that urged Assad to relinquish power was replaced with a call for him to delegate power to his deputy, a move that could leave Assad the nominal leader even if he is devoid of powers, according to a UN diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani plan to travel to New York this weekend and present Syria’s crisis dossier to the Security Council on Jan. 31. The draft resolution affirms a transition plan put forward by the Arab League calling for a national unity government within two months to implement a peaceful handover of power.

To contact the reporters on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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