UNITED NATIONS — Security Council ambassadors began working on Thursday on a revised Syria resolution, with references to sanctions removed as bartering focused in good part on the conditions under which President Bashar al-Assad could be asked to cede power.
Russia has repeatedly threatened to veto any resolution that does not meet its demands, including that the document not specifically call for regime change in Syria, where Mr. Assad’s forces have been seeking to crush an 11-month-old uprising that increasingly resembles a civil war.
But the commitment to do something, made in speeches on Tuesday by numerous foreign ministers flying in from around the world, suggested that there was room for compromise, ambassadors said.
“We have more work to do, but I think it was a constructive session conducted in a good spirit,” said Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador, after emerging from a three-hour meeting late Wednesday. “Everyone is trying to approach this in a constructive and rational way. That in itself is progress.”
Other points of contention, beyond what happens to Mr. Assad, included the issue of whether the resolution would support arms embargoes or other sanctions by United Nations member countries and how to word the resolution so it makes clear no outside military intervention is authorized.
In the latest version crafted by Morocco, the paragraphs calling for a halt to weapons sales and endorsing the sanctions imposed by the Arab League were both dropped, according to a version shown to The New York Times.
The Russians wanted to insert language in the resolution that would have banned “illegal” sales, said a Security Council diplomat involved, effectively giving them license to sell unlimited arms to the regime. Such sales have continued unabated since the uprising began last March. So the Western and Arab ambassadors tentatively agreed to drop the subject.
The draft resolution mirrors one passed by the Arab League last month, which calls on Mr. Assad to delegate responsibility to his vice president in order to form a transitional government with the opposition and pave the way toward a new constitution and new elections.
The working version circulated on Thursday says that the council “fully supports” the Arab League decision, but all the explicit wording about Mr. Assad stepping down has been taken out.
The new wording is tantamount to the same thing, Security Council diplomats said, since the Arab League decision contains the demand that Mr. Assad delegate responsibility to his vice president to pave the way to a rapid democratic transition.
Diplomats stressed that the draft was still a work in progress, with changes in the wording expected and with the possibility that elements dropped previously could be re-introduced.
Diplomats present at the Wednesday session, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that much of the meeting consisted of the Russian envoy, Vitaly I. Churkin, repeating Moscow’s demands that it would not accept a resolution that endorses regime change or contemplates other outside interference. Russia wants to explicitly sideline the Libya model, in which foreign military intervention led by NATO helped oust Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
“These are tough issues, and there are issues of interest and principle that still divide the Council,” said Ms. Rice, who described the question of how to treat a political transition as “one of the more difficult issues.”
As is frequently the case in such talks, the arguments often break down into semantics.
The Arab League plan calls on Mr. Assad to delegate his responsibilities to his vice president, so the debate in the Council swirled around whether using the word “delegate” actually represents a demand that Mr. Assad step down, according to one diplomat.
The ambassadors also debated how strongly the resolution should endorse the Arab League plan — with the choices being “fully support” or “take note” or “welcome,” said Néstor Osorio, the Colombian ambassador.
Western ambassadors seeking to bolster the Arab League wanted the “fully support” language. But there was some suggestion that Mr. Churkin was trying to “cherry pick” language from the Arab League’s plan, as one diplomat put it, rather than accept it as the blueprint.
Mr. Churkin declined to go into detail about the negotiations, saying only that it had been a “good session.”
Diplomats said that the efforts toward compromise meant it was still possible to hold a vote by Friday, but the debate could easily stretch into next week, given the issues involved and the need for ambassadors to consult with their capitals.
Many ambassadors said that escalating violence in Syria was an important factor driving the desire to find a compromise.
The situation there remained remarkably fluid, with the uprising seeming more like an armed struggle daily.
On Wednesday, activists and residents reported new fighting across the country between government forces and opposition fighters in which dozens were killed. In the embattled city of Homs, soldiers shelled several neighborhoods after rebels attacked an army checkpoint there and commandeered a government tank, they said.
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