The UN General Assembly has voted to condemn an "escalation" in the Syrian war and the conduct of President Bashar al-Assad's military. However there was less support for this resolution than a previous one.
The resolution, which was drawn up by Qatar and other Arab states and backed by Western countries, called for a political transition in Syria and expressed "outrage at the increasing death toll" in the country's civil war, which the UN says has killed more than 70,000 people. It passed on Wednesday by 107 votes to 12, with 59 abstentions, in the 193-member assembly.
This signaled a drop in support compared to a previous resolution that passed in August, with 133 votes in favor, 12 against and 31 abstentions.
Syria's key ally, Russia, opposed the resolution, criticizing references in the text to the opposition Syrian National Coalition. The resolution welcomed the Coalition as "effective representative interlocutors needed for a transition," which Russia said would encourage "armed actions" from the opposition against the Assad regime.
China, Syria, Iran and North Korea were among those to oppose the resolution, while those in abstention included Italy, Brazil, South Africa, Ireland, Israel, India and Indonesia.
Before the vote, Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin wrote to all 193 UN members, saying that support for the resolution would be "a serious blow to all attempts to bring the Syrian sides to the negotiating table."
Earlier in May, the US and Russia reached an agreement to encourage both sides in the Syria conflict to reach a negotiated solution, suggesting a peace conference that would include Assad's government and rebels. US Secretary of State John Kerry said this conference would most likely take place in early June.
The two powers have repeatedly taken opposing sides on the matter, with Russia - a long-standing arms supplier to Syria - maintaining close links with the Assad regime.
Moscow claims Washington has worsened the situation by seeking regime change and siding with the rebels. Meanwhile Western nations have accused Russia Assad failing to use its influence with Damascus and blocking efforts to take action against Syria through the UN Security Council.
On three occasions, Russia has prevented the UN Security Council from issuing sanctions against Assad, along with China. Wednesday's motion could not be blocked, as no country has veto powers in the General Assembly, but it is not legally binding and carries only moral weight.
Activists said on Wednesday that Syrian rebels attacked the main prison in the northern city of Aleppo, in attempt to free hundreds of opponents to the Assad regime believed to be held there.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack began with two simulataneous car bombs, which denotated at the prison's entrance. The Observatory and a local activist group, the Aleppo Media Center, said the rebel fighters surged into the prison compound and seized one of the buildings.
The Observatory said Syrian regime forces, backed by tanks and warplanes, fought to repel the attack, firing tank shells and launching air raids. It said the prison, located in the outskirts of the city which is largely under rebel control, houses 4,000 inmates, including Islamists and common law criminals.
jr/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)