US, Russia focus on Syria at key UN meeting

NEW YORK — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to end the crisis in his country and appealed to a divided UN Security Council to unite and pull Syria back "from the brink of a deeper catastrophe," reported the Associated Press.

15-nation council is holding a ministerial meeting on the Arab Spring uprising and focusing on a way forward on Syria.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that Syria's "horrific campaign of violence" had "shocked the conscience of the world".

Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to hold bilateral talks about Syria on the sidelines of the meeting.

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Russia and China have previously vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions condemning Syria for the crackdown.

"In the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the world, this council has so far failed in its responsibilities towards the Syrian people," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who chaired the meeting, reported Britain's Telegraph.

"It has failed to address the brutal oppression of peaceful protesters by the Syrian regime, and it has not yet put its weight and authority behind the Arab League's efforts," Hague said.

Hague is pushing for a UN resolution to end the violence but needs support from Moscow and Beijing.

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As he headed into Monday's meetings, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he had three goals: ending the violence, getting access for humanitarian agencies, and a political transition.

"I hope Russia and China no longer will be on the wrong side of history," Westerwelle told the AP.

Russia's Lavrov comes to the table after tense meeting with Arab League foreign ministers who have endorsed a plan for Assad to hand power and reports of a "massacre" in the formerly rebel-held Homs neighborhood of Karm el-Zeytoun.

Hours before the alleged massacre, Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, left Damascus without a deal to end the conflict.

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