By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — European nations and Russia proposed rival U.N. resolutions Friday morning, both calling for expanding the number of U.N. cease-fire monitors in Syria from 30 to 300 but disagreeing on possible sanctions and on how quickly the larger observer force should get on the ground.
After several hours of negotiations by Security Council experts, Russia circulated a merged text, and council ambassadors met behind closed doors early Friday evening to discuss it.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he was "looking forward to adoption" of a resolution on Saturday.
But Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said "there are some difficulties" with the new text, and India's U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said "there are some problems that need to be resolved."
The key difference in the original texts — obtained by The Associated Press — is whether there should be a sustained cease-fire before the expanded force is deployed.
The European draft would authorize a force of 300 observers but condition its deployment to notification from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Syria has implemented its pledge to withdraw all troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns "to his satisfaction." Ban accused Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday of failing to honor a peace plan that took effect a week ago.
The draft resolution stresses that it is critically important to create "a sustained cessation of violence" and establish "a conducive environment" for the large mission to deploy.
The draft proposed by Russia, Syria's closest ally, would immediately establish the 300-strong force without any conditions, though it does underline the importance that international envoy Kofi Annan's attaches to Syria's withdrawal of troops and weapons.
The previously divided Security Council united last Saturday for the first time since the Syrian conflict began 13 months ago to adopt a resolution authorizing the deployment of an advance team of up to 30 U.N. observers.
Annan's diplomacy succeeded in getting Russia to back the monitoring mission, but Syria's ally continues to resist more forceful measures.
Another difference in the texts is whether Syria should face possible sanctions if it fails to send its troops and heavy weapons back to barracks.
The European draft expresses the council's intention, in the event of Syrian non-compliance, to adopt non-military sanctions under Article 41 of the U.N. Charter which would likely include economic measures such as asset freezes, and travel bans. The Russian draft makes no mention of such measures.
The European draft, circulated by France, would authorize the expanded U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, to be known as UNSMIS, to not only monitor a cease-fire and withdrawal of Syrian troops and heavy weapons but also "monitor and support" full implementation of Annan's six-point peace plan.
The Russian draft says the expanded force will monitor a cease-fire "and relevant aspects of the envoy's six-point proposal."
Seven of the advance observers are already on the ground, another two will arrive Monday, and the U.N. hopes to have all 30 in Syria next week, Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told The Associated Press in Geneva.
Members of the advance team are being borrowed from U.N. missions in the region so they can deploy quickly, he said.
The preliminary agreement between Syria and the United Nations on the deployment of U.N. observers says they will have freedom to go anywhere in the country by foot or by car, take pictures, and use technical equipment to monitor compliance with the cease-fire engineered by Annan.
The issue of using helicopters and aircraft will likely dominate discussions in the coming days, Fawzi said.
The Russian draft resolution makes no mention of helicopters but the European version underlines the need for the Syrian government "to agree rapidly" with the U.N. on "the independent use of air assets" by the expanded force.
In France, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on the international community to live up to its responsibilities and warned that if Annan's peace plan "doesn't function, we have to envisage other methods."