Feb 17 - The United Nations General Assembly backs an Arab League plan urging Syria's leader to step down. Paul Chapman reports.
PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL The United Nations General Assembly achieved what the Security Council could not. It's overwhelmingly backed an Arab League plan urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside. Syria's ambassador to the U.N warned the resolution would only make matters worse. SOUNDBITE: Bashar Ja'Afari, Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. saying (Arabic): "We would like to confirm that any biased, unobjective resolution would only send the wrong message to all these extremists and terrorists, a message that their violence and their deliberate sabotage receives the support of member states of the United Nations, and their encouragement. Consequently the adoption of such a resolution would only lead to a tightening of the crisis and more violence in the region as a whole instead of resolving the crisis peacefully." With no end in sight to the bloodshed in Syria, the vote should boost the pressure on its president to comply with the Arab League plan for his departure. Russia and China were among the 12 nations to vote against the resolution they had previously vetoed at the Security Council. Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly ones lack legal force. But Britain's Ambassador to the U.N. is rejecting any suggestion it's a move towards international military action. SOUNDBITE: Mark Lyall Grant, UK Ambassador to the U.N. saying (English): "We heard a lot of accusations from the Syrians and the Venezuelans today suggesting that this was somehow a prelude to armed intervention, that this was another Libya. The two situations are completely different and frankly that is just a pretext for those who are not prepared to support a strong Arab League lead which, as I say, is the only credible plan on the table which could possibly resolve this crisis peacefully." On the streets of Damascus, Assad's offer of a referendum on a draft constitution was being greeted with some enthusiasm among Syrians. The deal, leading to multi-party elections within 90 days, has been scorned by the opposition and the West. Paul Chapman, Reuters