U.S. hopes dim for U.N. resolution on Syria

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s hopes for a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an end to violence in Syria dimmed on Friday as Russia continued to object to language it believes is biased against the government in Damascus, US officials said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had appealed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for flexibility from Moscow and would be speaking with him again at the United Nations on Monday on the sidelines of a special Security Council session on the Arab Spring.

Clinton told reporters at the State Department that she would speak with Lavrov “about our hope that Russia will play a constructive role in ending the bloodshed and working toward a political transition in Syria.”

“We continue to urge the international community to come together to take action, first to provide human relief and second to work toward a political transition that would have a change in leadership to one that would respect the rights and dignity of the Syrian people,” she said.

But other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the diplomacy, said there was no sign that Russia was willing to back down and there was little chance of getting an agreement.

“We are not optimistic that a consensus will be reached in the near future,” one official said.

Syria is Russia’s primary ally in the Arab world and hosts a large Russian naval base.

Russia, along with China, has already vetoed two Security Council resolutions on Syria. But Chinese officials have recently hinted at a possible change in position and U.S. and European diplomats had suggested that Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin might be ready to compromise. U.S. officials said Friday, however, that that did not appear to be the case.

Russia has objected to what it says is language slanted in favor of opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Earlier this week, the U.S. proposed a resolution that would demand an end to violence, first by government forces and then by opposition fighters. This was not acceptable to the Russians and the draft has been returned to the U.S. with little prospect for progress, officials said.

Meanwhile, the administration reacted warmly to reports of small but growing numbers of defections from the Assad regime. Reports from Turkey indicated that a pair of generals, as well as other military personnel had defected. Those followed reports on Thursday that Syria’s deputy oil minister had abandoned the government.

“We continue to urge the Syrian army not to turn their weapons against their own people, defenseless civilians, women and children,” Clinton said.

Administration officials said they could not confirm the reported defections but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, if true, they were an encouraging development.

“Those defections are a courageous step by members of the regime demonstrating their loyalty to and support for the Syrian people and their aspirations,” he said.

“If the reports are true, it’s certainly a sign that there are significant cracks in the Assad regime, and lend weight to the U.S. view that Assad will fall,” Earnest said. “A political transition will take place in Syria that will end with Assad no longer in power.”

For the past year, Syria’s government has tried to crush a popular uprising inspired by the Arab Spring movements. The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed.

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