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UN General Assembly Condemns Syria

Members of the UN General Assembly vote to endorse the Arab League's plan for Syria's president to step aside at the UN's headquarters in New York on February 16.

Members of the UN General Assembly vote to endorse the Arab League's plan for Syria's president to step aside at the UN's headquarters in New York on February 16.

The UN General Assembly has approved a nonbinding resolution endorsing an Arab League plan that calls on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to leave office.

The 193-member General Assembly voted 137 to 12, with 17 abstentions, in favor of the resolution, which is similar to the resolution Russia and China vetoed on February 4.

Russia and China again voted against this resolution.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said he was voting against the resolution because it did not specifically say "all sides should halt violence and needed decisions can only be reached between the Syrians themselves through an open political process that is clear to all [in Syria]."

Churkin also said Russia was concerned by international efforts to isolate the Syrian government and refuse to have any contact with it.

Chinese Deputy Ambassador to the UN Wang Min said his country did not "approve of armed intervention or forcing so-called 'regime change' in Syria."

Wang said China did not believe sanctions or the threat of sanctions were "helpful in achieving an appropriate solution."

Among the other countries that voted against the resolution were North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and Cuba.

Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said passing the resolution would embolden groups to take more action and lead to "more chaos and more crisis."

Jaafari said the Arab League had been "broken both politically and morally."

"We heard a lot of accusations from the Syrians and the Venezuelans today suggesting that this was somehow a prelude to armed intervention, that this was another Libya,' Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after the vote.

"The two situations are completely different and frankly that is just a pretext for those who are not prepared to support a strong Arab League lead, which as I say is the only credible plan on the table which could possibly resolve this crisis peacefully."

Ban: 'Crimes Against Humanity'

The resolution also calls for an end to violence against civilians in Syria and the implementation of an Arab League plan to end the violence that has been going on in Syria since last March.

In Vienna, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon again said that Syrian forces and those who were directing them appeared to be committing "crimes against humanity."

"We see neighborhoods shelled indiscriminately, hospitals used as torture centers, children as young as 10 years old jailed and abused," Ban said. "We see almost certain crimes against humanity."

The resolution did not make any specific reference to an earlier Arab League call for a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force for Syria but did ask Ban to consider appointing a special envoy to Syria, possibly jointly with the Arab League.

According to UN estimates, at least 5,400 people have been killed in nearly 11 months of unrest in Syria.

Fighting has intensified in February as Syrian forces attempt to quell opposition in cities were antigovernment forces are in control. In the opposition-held city of Homs dozens of people have been reported killed daily since the start of the month as Syrian forces try to break resistance there.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government is moving forward with plans to hold a constitutional referendum on February 26.

Compiled from agency reports

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