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Russia presents Syria counter-offer at UN

Russia proposed to its Western partners at the United Nations Security Council a counter-offer late Wednesday to bring aid to desperate Syrian civilians, diplomats said.

UNITED NATIONS: Russia proposed to its Western partners at the United Nations Security Council a counter-offer late Wednesday to bring aid to desperate Syrian civilians, diplomats said.

Russia has so far refused to back a Security Council resolution that would allow the delivery of food, shelter, medical aid and water to besieged Homs and other cities where thousands of civilians are trapped by fighting.

Envoys of the 15 council members had discussed Tuesday the draft resolution initiated by Western and Arab countries.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin presented his country's text during a new meeting called by Moscow with only the five permanent members of the council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

The envoys are due to meet again Thursday "to try to merge the two texts," a council diplomat said, declining to provide any details about the Russian option, only saying it contained some elements of its predecessor.

"It seems like the Russians are ready to talk."

But no outcome is expected until next week.

Western states want Russia to back a draft resolution which calls on all parties to improve humanitarian access and "immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs" and other Syrian cities.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov countered that the draft was "absolutely unacceptable," because it contained an ultimatum for the government of President Bashar al-Assad and failed to stress the growing number of terror attacks in Syria.

The resolution is not binding and does not provide for automatic sanctions.

But if its demands were not enacted within 15 days, the Council could vote for sanctions targeting those who prevented delivery of humanitarian aid or harmed civilians.

Russia has already blocked three UN Security Council resolutions aiming to pressure the Damascus regime since the crisis began nearly three years ago.

Moscow's refusal to budge earned a strong rebuke from US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, who branded the Kremlin a "holdout."

"It is not just the Syrians that are responsible, the Russians (are) as well if they are blocking this kind of resolution," Obama said at a White House press conference with French President Francois Hollande.

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