The United States has warned the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to cooperate with a UN-backed plan or face increasing isolation.
A nonbinding UN Security Council presidential statement approved by all 15 members expresses full support for the plan put forward by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to end all violence, secure humanitarian access, and facilitate a political dialogue.
The statement warns of "further steps" if Annan does not report progress.
Addressing the Assad regime at a press conference in Washington on March 21, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We say, along with the rest of the international community: take this path, commit to it, or face increasing pressure and isolation."
China's envoy to the UN, Li Baodong, on March 21 endorsed the Security Council statement and called on Assad to "cease violence immediately."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped "this strong and united action by the council will mark a turning point in the international community's response to the crisis."
The United Nations estimates that more than 8,000 people have been killed during the yearlong uprising against Assad’s regime, while tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.
Western sources say the Security Council statement was toned down in order to secure the support of permanent member Russia, which, along with China, earlier vetoed two draft resolutions on Syria.
Moscow had said it would support a statement or a resolution supporting Annan's proposals, but only if it contained no ultimatums to Assad.
Iran Weapons Charges
Also on March 21 during a UN Security Council briefing, U.S., British, and French diplomats voiced alarm over reports that Iran has been violating UN sanctions and is illegally supplying weapons to Assad's government.
The cases are being investigated.
Tehran is banned from exporting weapons under UN sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.
Iran and Syria have denied charges of arms deals.
In Syria, activists said government tanks shelled two areas of Damascus, Hasrata and Irbin, after rebels attacked a government intelligence compound.
There were also reports of military offensives in other regions.
With dpa, AP, and AFP reporting