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UN chief calls Syrian violence 'horrific,' so why is a resolution so elusive?

Opposition is building to a UN resolution condemning Syria, a reaction to the Libya vote and the result of assertiveness by emerging powers Brazil and India. To many, the UN appears absent.

By Staff writer / June 14, 2011

A Syrian refugee woman brings laundry to an irrigation canal in a camp, in Boynuyogun, Turkey, Tuesday. According to the Turkish Prime Minister's office the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey stands at more than 8,500 people.

Vadim Ghirda/AP

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Washington

That Western plans for a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the violence in Syria would run into a brick wall of resistance from traditional naysayers China and Russia is not much of a surprise.

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But now emerging powers like Brazil and India are adding their bricks to that wall, casting into doubt passage of a resolution despite what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “horrific” violence against the Syrian people by their own government.

Resistance to a Syria resolution is characterized by some UN experts as “blowback” from Security Council action in March on Libya, which led to NATO’s intervention in the North African country’s conflict. Brazil – which currently occupies one of the council’s 10 rotating seats – has said publicly that its reluctance to support a Syria resolution reflects its disagreement with Western powers’ interpretation of the council’s second Libya resolution as a green light for intervention in a country’s internal conflict.

For others, the willingness of a Brazil to stand up to the council’s traditional Western powers portends diplomatic challenges ahead.

“You always had to get nine votes, it’s always been politics beyond the permanent five” members of the council, the US, France, Great Britain, Russia, and China, says Michael Doyle, a UN expert at Columbia University in New York. “What’s new is the strikingly more independent and self-assertive roles some of the new emerging world powers are playing.”

Resolution caught in stalemate

The result is that a resolution many thought would have passed by now is instead caught in a stalemate ­– and the UN is being widely viewed as absent on Syria, even as the violence there continues and even escalates.

Last week, on a visit to Washington and New York, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé suggested a resolution would be put to a vote in the 15-member council within days. But a vote on the resolution – sponsored by France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal – remained up in the air Tuesday, with the sponsors unwilling to seek a vote unless assured of at least a minimum nine-vote passage and no veto from either Russia or China.

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