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Italy recalls ambassador to Syria

Italy has become the first European Union country to recall its ambassador to Syria in protest at the repression of anti-government demonstrations and urged other nations do the same.

Meanwhile Russia said it would not oppose a United Nations resolution to condemn the violence.

Italy is the first EU nation to withdraw its ambassador, although the EU has been tightening sanctions and imposed asset freezes and travel bans against five additional Syrian military and government officials this week.

At the UN headquarters in New York, the Security Council began negotiating a text on Tuesday after failing for more than three months to make any statement on the Syrian violence - except to condemn the attacks on the US and French embassies in Damascus.

During talks that dragged late into the evening, the council was negotiating on the wording of a European-drafted resolution that was updated with proposals from Brazil and others in what several ambassadors called a positive step.

India's UN ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the current council president, had said the goal was to reach tentative agreement on a text that could be sent to capitals overnight and then tackle the divisive issue of whether it should be adopted as a legally-binding resolution or a weaker presidential statement.

After lengthy discussions, the ambassadors broke for the evening and agreed to resume negotiations on Wednesday after receiving guidance from their capitals. Lesser-ranking diplomats said one key unresolved issue was how to address the violence against unarmed civilians and attacks on Syrian security forces.

The Europeans and the US insist that the Syrian government's violence against unarmed civilians, which account for the vast number of casualties, cannot be equated with the attacks on security forces, the diplomats said.

Russia's government softened its stance, indicating it would not oppose a resolution. Last month, Russia and China had threatened to veto the original European resolution that would have condemned the Syrian attacks, effectively blocking it.

The Europeans and US want a resolution but diplomats said other council members including India, Brazil and South Africa wanted a presidential statement.

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