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Russia and China block Syria action

Russia and China vetoed a European-backed UN Security Council resolution that threatened sanctions against Syria if it did not halt its military crackdown against civilians.

It would have been the first legally binding resolution adopted by the Security Council since President Bashar Assad's military began using tanks and soldiers against protesters in mid-March.

Its defeat on reflects the deep divisions in the UN's most powerful body over how to address the violence in Syria, which the UN estimates has led to more than 2,700 deaths.

The European sponsors of the resolution tried to avoid a veto by watering down the language on sanctions three times, to the point where the word "sanctions" was taken out, but they failed.

The vote was 9-2 with four abstentions - India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon.

It was the first double veto by Russia and China since July 2008 when they blocked proposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. In January 2007, they also vetoed a resolution calling on Burma to release all political prisoners, initiate a wide-ranging dialogue and end military attacks and human rights abuses.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote that his country did not support the Assad regime or the violence but opposed the resolution because it was "based on a philosophy of confrontation," contained "an ultimatum of sanctions" and was against a peaceful settlement of a crisis. He also complained that the resolution did not call for the Syrian opposition to disassociate itself from "extremists" and enter into dialogue.

China's Ambassador Li Bandong said his country is concerned about the violence and wants to see speedy reforms but opposed the resolution because "sanctions, or threat of sanctions, do not help the situation in Syria but rather complicates the situation."

Supporters of the resolution expressed disappointment and outrage. US Ambassador Susan Rice said "the courageous people of Syria can now clearly see who on this council supports their yearning for liberty and human rights - and who does not."

She accused Russia and China of wanting to sell arms to the Syrian regime rather than stand with the Syrian people - an accusation vehemently denied by Russia's Churkin.

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