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Security Council ends Tuesday's meeting on Syria without acting

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Syrian violence ramps up despite Ramadan
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "No final agreement was possible today," says Russian ambassador
  • President Assad "has lost all sense of humanity," the U.N. secretary-general says
  • Five people died in Hama on Tuesday, activists say

United Nations (CNN) -- The 15 members of the U.N. Security Council ended a second day of private discussion Tuesday without deciding how to respond to Syria's violent crackdown on protesters.

"Unfortunately, after yesterday's discussion and after many hours of discussion starting in the morning today and ending at almost 8 p.m., no final agreement was possible today among Security Council members," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters.

"We agreed to refer back to our capitals and then reconvene tomorrow in order to see whether a common position is possible."

Asked what the sticking points were, he said, "The required balance has not been achieved in the course of those discussions and in the current shape and form of the text."

He did not elaborate, but Western diplomats said he was referring to criticism of violence wielded by the Syrian armed forces not being balanced by criticism of violence by the protesters.

But Churkin held out hope that the world body would be able to decide on a response -- whether it be a presidential statement, which would require a consensus, or a resolution, which would be stronger.

Western powers are seeking passage of a resolution, which Russia has not backed, Western diplomats said.

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Lebanon, which has been reluctant to sign on to a critique of its neighbor, would need to agree to a consensus.

Discussions are to resume at 10 a.m. "I hope that members of the Security Council will receive instructions which will allow them to modify some of their positions -- which are too far-reaching in terms of leaning on one side," Churkin said.

He called for the council "to do everything possible in order to pull away from the brink of civil war where Syria is finding itself, unfortunately and tragically, at this point."

Western press deputies said the council members spent Tuesday discussing how to marry two texts.

One is a European draft resolution that had its origins in May, amid the initial reaction to the violence, and the other includes elements from the Brazilian representative that don't go as far as the European draft in criticizing the Syrian government, the press deputies said.

Four European members of the Security Council -- Britain, France, Germany and Portugal -- on Monday had revived a draft U.N. resolution that would probably condemn President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Indian Ambassador to the U.N. Hardeep Puri characterized Tuesday's council consultations as "some serious discussions going on." He said Security Council members shared concern over the violence and backed a call for restraint and a start to a political process.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued his most powerful denunciation yet of the regime in Damascus. "The secretary-general believes that President Assad has lost all sense of humanity," spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

A group of Syrian human rights, civil society and political activists on Tuesday urged South Africa, Brazil and India -- three of the non-permanent council members -- to back a resolution.

They want such a measure to condemn the government's use of violence against peaceful protesters, urge accountability for crimes, demand an end to government violence and call for access for U.N. investigators in Syria.

We call on the international community to come together behind the people of Syria in this critical time
--U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
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Ambassadors from other nations, including China and Russia, have argued that U.N. action would risk further destabilizing the Middle Eastern country. It was not clear whether they would support such a resolution.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the expansion of European Union sanctions against Syrian officials Tuesday, saying the "appalling crackdown" seen in Hama and other Syrian cities over the weekend "only erode the regime's legitimacy and increase resentment," he said.

Italy urged other EU nations to follow its lead after recalling its ambassador in Damascus in light of the "horrible repression of the civilian population," the country's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The diplomatic discussions occurred as Syria's fierce security crackdown continued on peaceful protesters.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an activist group, said snipers were positioned across the western city of Hama, where five people were killed Tuesday.

Tear gas grenades and live ammunition were used against 40,000 mourners participating in funerals for people killed Monday in the Damascus suburb of Irbeen. Protesters responded by throwing stones?, the LCC said, and security forces dispersed the demonstrators with bullets and fire extinguishers. There was a wave of arrests.

Overnight Monday, at least 24 people were killed, dozens were wounded, and more than 150 people were detained across the country after Ramadan prayers, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of London-based human rights group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The dead include 10 in Hama, six in Irbeen, three in Homs province, two in Boukamal, two in Latakia on the coast and one in Madamaiya near Damascus, Abdul-Rahman said.

"The world is watching, and the international community is gravely concerned," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, adding that at least 145 people had been killed since Friday.

Pillay urged the government to provide access to a fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council.

"It is high time that we work towards accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations in Syria in recent months," the high commissioner said. "There is a need for an international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation into the violence, the killings, the excessive use of force, the arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and torture that the people of Syria have been subjected to."

Hama hospitals have been overwhelmed; patients were being treated in hallways, and the morgues were overflowing, a doctor in Hama said. The bloodshed follows a violent weekend in the volatile city, where dozens of people were reported killed and hospitals were overwhelmed.

Syrian state-run media reported Tuesday that "armed groups" were behind Monday's assault in Hama.

But activists have consistently said security forces initiated the violence in Hama, which was the scene of a brutal military crackdown in 1982 targeting Sunni Muslims by the Alawite-dominated government led by then-President Hafez al-Assad, the father of current President Bashar al-Assad.

Irbeen residents have managed to smuggle some of the wounded to secret locations where they can be treated discreetly out of fear that security forces would abduct them from hospitals, according to the Coalition of Free Damascenes for Peaceful Change. The coalition also said residents spotted snipers on a building overlooking a square in Irbeen.

The violence coincides with the start on Monday of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, a period of fasting and spiritual reflection.

Anti-government protesters have taken to the streets for months to demand reforms or an end to the al-Assad regime.

The death toll in Syria since its uprising began in mid-March has reached 1,992, according to Abdul-Rahman. He said the dead include 1,618 civilians and 374 Syrian security forces.

CNN is unable to independently confirm the death tolls. Syria has restricted access to Syria by international journalists, including CNN's.

CNN's Arwa Damon, Nada Husseini and Joe Vaccarello contributed to this report.

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