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UN diplomat says Russia presents rival UN resolution on Syria humanitarian crisis

Russia presented a rival U.N. resolution on the humanitarian crisis in Syria to key Security Council members after saying they would veto a Western and Arab-backed measure threatening sanctions against Syria, a U.N. diplomat said late Wednesday.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin gave the text to the four other veto-wielding permanent members of the council — the United States, Britain, France and China — at a meeting, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

The Russian draft includes some parts of the Western and Arab text, the diplomat said.

Negotiations were expected to see if the drafts can be merged into a compromise text, the diplomat said.

Western diplomats said their goal is to get agreement from all 15 council members on a resolution demanding immediate and unrestricted access to all areas of Syria to deliver aid.

Churkin dismissed the Western and Arab text as a "political."

The Western and Arab text puts most of the blame for the humanitarian crisis on the Syrian government.

It demands that civilians be allowed to leave and calls on Syrian authorities to allow humanitarian access to people in need across conflict lines and across borders from neighbouring countries, particularly Turkey and Iraq.

If the resolution's demands aren't met within 15 days, the draft expresses the Security Council's intention to impose non-military sanctions.

Russia and China, which back the Syrian government, have blocked three previous Western-backed resolutions that would have pressured President Bashar Assad to end the now three-year-old civil war.

The divided Security Council did come together in October to approve a presidential statement appealing for immediate access to all areas of Syria to deliver aid. But the supporters want a legally binding resolution.

Russia has come under intense pressure over its opposition, including from President Barack Obama.

Obama said Tuesday that Secretary of State John Kerry and others have "delivered a very direct message" pressuring the Russians to drop their opposition.

"It is not just the Syrians that are responsible" for the plight of civilians but "the Russians, as well, if they are blocking this kind of resolution," he said.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Wednesday that as violence intensifies in Syria and the situation on the ground becomes more complicated "people are becoming more desperate."

"There are reports and allegations of systematic targeting of communities with specific religious affiliations," she said.

She told a Security Council meeting on protection of civilians that "there are 250,000 people in areas of the country which are besieged."

"They cannot leave and we cannot get aid in," said Amos, who is scheduled to brief the council again Thursday afternoon on Syria.

She said the desperately needed humanitarian pause in a besieged rebel-held area of Homs, Syria's third-largest city, has led to the evacuation of more than 1,000 civilians and the delivery of some food and medicine.

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