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U.N. Assembly approves Syria resolution

Published: Wednesday, May 15 2013 9:51 p.m. MDT

In this photo provided by the United Nations, Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday May 15, 2013. The U.N. General Assembly approved an Arab-backed resolution calling for a political transition in Syria and strongly condemning President Bashar Assad's regime for its escalating use of heavy weapons.The resolution, which is not legally binding, was adopted by a vote of 107-12 with 59 abstentions. (AP Photo/United Nations, Evan Schneider) (Associated Press) In this photo provided by the United Nations, Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday May 15, 2013. The U.N. General Assembly approved an Arab-backed resolution calling for a political transition in Syria and strongly condemning President Bashar Assad's regime for its escalating use of heavy weapons.The resolution, which is not legally binding, was adopted by a vote of 107-12 with 59 abstentions. (AP Photo/United Nations, Evan Schneider) (Associated Press)

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly approved an Arab-backed resolution Wednesday calling for a political transition in Syria, but more than 70 countries refused to vote "yes" because of its support for the main opposition group and fears the resolution could torpedo a new U.S.-Russia effort to end the escalating conflict.

The United States co-sponsored the resolution, saying it would promote a political solution. But key Syrian ally Russia urged a "no" vote, saying it was "counterproductive and irresponsible" to promote a one-sided resolution when Moscow and Washington are trying to get the Syrian government and opposition to agree to negotiations.

The resolution, which is not legally binding, was approved by a vote of 107-12 with 59 abstentions.

In this photo provided by the United Nations, Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.     (Associated Press) In this photo provided by the United Nations, Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

It welcomes the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group, "as effective interlocutors needed for a political transition" and notes "wide international acknowledgment" that the group is the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. It also strongly condemns President Bashar Assad's regime for its escalating use of heavy weapons and "gross violations" of human rights.

The Arab group decided to seek approval of a wide-ranging resolution on Syria in the General 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.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, which are legally binding, General Assembly resolutions cannot be enforced. But approval of an assembly resolution would counter the paralysis of the deeply divided Security Council, where Syria's allies, Russia and China, have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to end the violence.

FILE - In this Monday, May 13, 2013 file photo, former prime minister and leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N party, Nawaz Sharif, gestures while speaking to members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan.  Over a decade ago, the man now set to become Pakistan?s next prime minister stood at this border crossing with archenemy India to inaugurate a ?friendship? bus service connecting the two countries. There is widespread hope on both sides of the border that Nawaz Sharif will take similarly bold steps to improve relations with India following his election victory, thus reducing the chance of a fourth major war between the nuclear-armed foes.  (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary) (Associated Press) FILE - In this Monday, May 13, 2013 file photo, former prime minister and leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N party, Nawaz Sharif, gestures while speaking to members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan. Over a decade ago, the man now set to become Pakistan?s next prime minister stood at this border crossing with archenemy India to inaugurate a ?friendship? bus service connecting the two countries. There is widespread hope on both sides of the border that Nawaz Sharif will take similarly bold steps to improve relations with India following his election victory, thus reducing the chance of a fourth major war between the nuclear-armed foes. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary) (Associated Press)

General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic told the 193-member world body that "what happens in Syria in the weeks and months ahead will profoundly bear upon the security and well-being of the entire region, and possibly beyond."

Jeremic warned, "If we are unable to do anything to stop this tragedy, then how can we sustain the moral credibility of this organization?"

U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told members before the vote that Syria faces a severe humanitarian crisis, with more than 1.4 million people fleeing the country and 4.25 million displaced inside it.

"It is clear that we need a Syrian-led peaceful political transition," she said, explaining that this is what spurred the U.S.-Russian initiative, announced on May 7.

"Adopting this resolution will send a clear message that the political solution we all seek is the best way to end the suffering of the people of Syria," DiCarlo said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at a press encounter at United Nations headquarters, after the meeting of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, Pool) (Associated Press) British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at a press encounter at United Nations headquarters, after the meeting of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, Pool) (Associated Press)

Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Alexander Pankin sharply disagreed, calling the resolution "very harmful and destructive" and accusing its Arab sponsors of using it as a way to replace the Syrian government — not to find a political solution to the crisis.

Pankin strongly criticized the resolution for disregarding "illegal actions of the armed opposition" and blaming the worsening human rights situation entirely on the Syrian government.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the resolution "seeks to escalate the crisis and fuel violence in Syria' by legitimizing the provision of weapons to the opposition and illegally recognizing a single faction of the opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

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