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July 19, 2012 (TSR) - U.S President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday acknowledged their differences on Syria, but agreed to continue discussions toward a solution, the White House said.
In their conversation over the phone, the two presidents discussed the “developing situation” and the “growing violence” in the Arab nation, agreeing on the need to “support a political transition as soon as possible that achieves our shared goal of ending the violence and avoiding a further deterioration of the situation,” the White House said.
“They noted the differences our governments have had on Syria, but agreed to have their teams continue to work toward a solution, ” it said.
Due to the lingering differences on approaches to the 16-month crisis in Syria, the UN Security Council decided to postpone until Thursday morning a scheduled vote for Wednesday on a draft resolution concerning Syria.
UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan Wednesday asked the Security Council to delay its vote on a draft resolution concerning the extension of UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), according to British Mission to the UN.
“Joint Special Envoy Annan has asked to delay today’s draft Syria resolution vote. With fellow co-sponsors we’re considering that request,” said British Mission on Twitter.
The West-proposed draft resolution, whose sponsors include France, Germany, Portugal, Britain and the United States, grants extension of the UN Syrian Supervision Mission (UNSMIS) for a period of 45 days and threatens non-military sanctions in case of Syria’s non-compliance in pulling out government troops and heavy weapons from populated areas within 10 days.
While Russia, in its own version of draft presented to the Council, asks for extending the mandate of UNSMIS for another three months, reducing the number of military observers and asking the operation to take on a more political mission. It opposes any threat of sanctions against Syria.
Russia also this week was angry with the West blackmailing them for their proposed resolution.
As the mandate of UNSMIS, which comprises 300 unarmed military observers, expires on July 20, the Security Council must decide whether to extend it or not by then.
Syrian Defense Minister Dawood Rajha and his deputy Assef Shawkat were killed Wednesday morning when a suicide bombing ripped through the country’s intelligence headquarters in the capital city of Damascus.
The attack followed three days of violent clashes in the capital between the Syrian government and rebel forces, prompting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to declare the situation in Syria “spinning out of control” and call for more international pressure on Damascus.
Washington on Wednesday expanded its sanctions against Syria by covering the prime minister, two deputy prime ministers and 26 ministers as well as six companies.
The Security Council now remained divided on this issues. Ambassadors from five permanent members of the Security Council — Russia, United States, France, Britain and China — are planned to hold negotiations on whether delay the vote or not.
Russia is opposed to any draft with threat of sanctions against Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters Wednesday in Moscow that consequences of unilateral sanctions against Damascus would lead the country to a civil war.