Divisions remained among the 15 nations on the wording of any condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on protests and whether it should be a formal resolution or a less weighty statement. - AFP (File Photo)

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council struggled Tuesday through negotiations on how to respond to the Syria crisis that Russia's envoy warned was veering toward civil war.

Divisions remained among the 15 nations on the wording of any condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on protests and whether it should be a formal resolution or a less weighty statement.

European nations, who agreed to change their draft resolution on Syria following pressure from opponents, said that progress had been made. But Russia said there was still not the “required balance” in the new version.

The second day of arduous talks ended with each country sending the draft text back to their national governments ahead of new negotiations on Wednesday.

Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin called the new text “detrimental” to efforts “to do everything possible to pull away from the brink of civil war where Syria is finding itself, unfortunately and tragically.”

International pressure on the Security Council to agree on a stand has mounted since weekend violence in which an estimated 140 people were killed in a military offensive on the flashpoint city of Hama and other protest towns.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon vented his growing anger at Assad's refusal to acknowledge international criticism, particularly after the weekend military offensive in Hama.

Highlighting his many statements on the crisis and attempts to speak to the Syrian leader, Ban told reporters Assad “must be aware that under international humanitarian law, this is accountable. I believe that he lost all sense of humanity.”

Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the United States have been trying to get a resolution passed for two months.

But Russia and China, two of the five permanent council members, have previously threatened to veto any such move.

Brazil, India and South Africa have also opposed council action, suggesting it could lead to a Libya-style international military campaign against Assad.

European governments and Nato have strongly denied that they are seeking a military intervention.

European diplomats say there is now agreement that there must be a Security Council response, a development that amounts to progress after weeks in which opponents sometimes even did not turn up for talks on Syria.

“We are progressing toward a constructive text,” said one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There are still key unresolved issues which will go back to capitals.”

The European nations still believe that a formal resolution is the best way to send a strong message to Syria, but diplomats said Russia and China remain strongly against such a move, though they would accept a statement.

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