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Europe drops Syria sanctions threat

European nations have dropped an explicit threat of sanctions against the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad to try to win Russian support for what would be the first UN resolution condemning his military crackdown on civilian protesters.

The Europeans also appealed to all sides in Syria "to reject violence and extremism".

The new European draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, still threatens to consider imposing "targeted measures" - which can include sanctions - against Syria if it does not comply with demands, including an immediate halt to violence and respect for human rights. But the words "including sanctions" which were in the previous draft, are gone.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters after a closed UN Security Council meeting on Thursday that Moscow was totally opposed to even mentioning the possibility of sanctions "and we are not the only ones ... who think that".

Asked about the latest draft, Mr Churkin said: "The important thing is that our capitals are looking at it."

Whether Russia will support, opposed or abstain on the resolution remains to be seen.

Several Western diplomats said they hoped for a council vote on Tuesday.

It took four months for the security council to break a deadlock between supporters and opponents of Syria and finally issue a statement in August condemning the escalating violence in the country. But the UN's most powerful body has been unable to agree on a legally-binding resolution.

After the council unanimously agreed on the presidential statement in August, the Europeans, backed by the United States, quickly tried to press for a resolution calling for an immediate arms embargo and other sanctions aimed at stopping the Assad government's crackdown on opposition protesters. But Russia, China, India, South Africa and Brazil were opposed, partly because of fear that the resolution might be used as a pretext for armed intervention against Syria.

They have argued that the UN resolution authorising the use of force to protect civilians in Libya has been misused by Nato to justify months of air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's regime, and now its remnants.

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