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Only faint hope for UN 'last chance' plan to avert civil war in Syria

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The council’s action marked a modest unblocking of the diplomatic logjam that has stymied for more than six months Western attempts to secure international action against Assad. Russia and China have twice vetoed more consequential council resolutions on Syria, with Russia vowing to block any resolution the council’s three other permanent members – the US, Britain, and France – might use to intervene in the Syrian crisis.

Russia accuses the Western powers of going beyond the mandate of last year's UN resolution on Libya – which Russia supported – to launch the NATO air campaign against the forces of Muammar Qaddafi. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly said that Russia would not leave any doors open to armed intervention in Syria by the West.

Again on Thursday, Mr. Lavrov warned that Russia would not approve any council action that contains “any ultimatums or threats” aimed at the Assad government. And there was some indication that Russia was getting its way in a council anxious to weigh in on the Syria crisis. The statement approved Thursday “urges” Assad to comply with the Annan plan, whereas an earlier draft said the council “demands” compliance.

That left unclear just what the council might be able to approve in the way of “further steps” in the event of a breakdown in implementation of the Annan plan.

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