By EDITH M. LEDERERAssociated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - An Arab-backed resolution calling for a political transition in Syria and strongly condemning the regime's escalating use of heavy weapons and "gross violations" of human rights was circulated Thursday to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.
The Arab group decided to seek approval of a wide-ranging resolution on Syria in the assembly, where there are no vetoes, to reflect international dismay at the increasing death toll, now more than 70,000, and the failure to end the more than two-year-old conflict.
A General Assembly resolution would also counter the paralysis of the deeply divided U.N. Security Council, where Syrian allies Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring President Bashar Assad to end the violence. Unlike Security Council resolutions, which are legally binding, General Assembly resolutions cannot be enforced. But if they are approved, especially by a large majority, they do reflect world opinion and can carry moral weight.
The draft resolution, circulated by Qatar and obtained by The Associated Press, would promote the roadmap for a Syrian transition adopted at a meeting on June 30, 2012 by key nations including the five veto-wielding council powers - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France. It calls for a political process that would start with the establishment of a transitional governing body vested with full executive powers and end with elections - but there has been no agreement on how to implement it which would require Assad to relinquish power at some unspecified point.
The draft resolution would reiterate the General Assembly's call "for an inclusive Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs." It says this should be done by starting "a serious political dialogue between credible, empowered, and mutually acceptable interlocutors representing the Syrian authorities and the Syrian opposition."
The draft welcomes the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group, and notes "the wide international acknowledgment" that it is the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations on the text were private, said the wording was changed to address concerns by some countries that the original draft would have the entire assembly endorsing the Syrian National Coalition.
This proposed resolution is a follow-up to a resolution adopted by the General Assembly last August which overwhelmingly denounced Syria's crackdown on dissent, including by military intelligence services and militias. The original draft called for Assad to resign but it was watered down after objections by some members.
The draft circulated Thursday strongly condemns the continued escalation in the Syrian regime's use of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and aircraft, as well as the use of ballistic missiles, cluster munitions and other weapons against populated areas.
It expresses "grave concern at the threat by the Syrian authorities to use chemical or biological weapons, as well as at allegations of reported use of such weapons." It demands that Syria "strictly observe" international laws prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons and refrains from transferring such weapons "to non-state actors."
Syria has said if it had such weapons, it would never use them against its own people.
Syria accused the rebels of using chemical weapons in Aleppo on March 19 and called for a U.N. investigation. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed and established an investigation team which he said should also investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Homs on Dec. 23 raised by Britain and France. To date, Syria has refused a broader investigation.
The draft resolution demands that Syrian authorities grant "full and unfettered access" to the investigation team.
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