The United Nations Security Council met on Tuesday to debate whether to adopt a draft resolution on Syria which calls for President Bashar Assad to step down.
The resolution is based on the Arab League’s plan for Syria which instructs Assad to delegate powers to his vice president following the formation of a national unity government.
The League’s plan calls for the unity government to prepare to elect a council, within three months, that will write a constitution. It should also prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said last week that he intends to bring the League’s peace plan for discussion at the Security Council.
The BBC reported that during the meeting, Qatar’s prime minister urged council members to take action against what he called Assad's “killing machine.”
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said all previous initiatives had failed “because the Syrian government failed to make any sincere effort to co-operate with us and the only solution available to it was to kill its own people.”
He added, “Bloodshed continued and the killing machine is still at work,” but stressed that it was for the Syrian people to decide whether they wanted a change in leadership.
Also present at the discussion was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the situation in Syria risked spinning out of control but that Assad's “reign of terror”, as she put it, would end.
“The question for us is how many more innocent civilians will die before this country is able to move forward,” Clinton was quoted by the BBC as having said.
She dismissed concerns that Syria could follow the same pattern as Libya and result in military intervention adding that the Arab League plan represents “the best effects and efforts of Syria's neighbors to chart a way forward and deserves a chance to work.”
“The alternative - spurning the Arab League, abandoning the Syrian people, emboldening the dictator - would compound this tragedy and would mark a failure of our shared responsibility and shake the credibility of the United Nations Security Council,” Clinton added.
The draft resolution being discussed strongly condemns human rights abuses by the Syrian government and calls on all sides to cease the use of violence. The BBC added that it calls on member states to take necessary steps to prevent flow of arms into Syria, without imposing an embargo.
Finally, the resolution calls on Assad to hand power to a deputy and make way for free elections.
The biggest obstacle to the resolution is Russia, the report said, which says the plan amounts to regime change and could lead to civil war. It is expected to veto the resolution, as it did with a previous resolution on Syria.
Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin, however, expressed optimism when he said the draft resolution contained elements of an earlier Russian text rejected by Western powers and the Arab League as too weak.
“This gives rise for hope,” Churkin was quoted as having said. “We hope that the council will come to consensus on the Syrian issue, as is not only possible but also necessary.”
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Syrian forces continued to kill opponents and soldier-turned-rebels, who have breached the suburbs of Damascus, previously totally loyal to Assad.
Government-controlled media said the army "chased the elements of armed terrorist groups that committed the worst crimes of murder and kidnapping against the citizens and had planted mines on public roads and terrorized people, including children and women” in the capital’s suburbs.