The UN is divided over how to end the violence in Syria. A special session of the 15-nation Security Council had been asked to consider a resolution backing an Arab League plan, but Russia and China remain to be convinced.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she  believes Syrian leaders are pitting ethnic and religious groups against each other, which could spark a civil war.
“To date the evidence is clear, that Assad’s forces are initiating all of the attacks that kill civilians. But as more citizens take up arms to resist the regime’s brutality, violence is increasingly likely to spiral out of control,” said Clinton.
Russia, Syria’s long-time ally, struck a conciliatory tone after saying a consensus might be found, but as long as it did not include regime change.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin announced after the session: “This is simply not the authority of the Security Council, the Security Council cannot prescribe ready recipes for the outcome of a domestic political process… otherwise it will start saying which king needs to resign and what prime minister needs to step down. This is really not the business of the Security Council”.
In the 10-month crackdown by President Bashar Al Assad’s regime against protesters, the UN says more than 5,000 civilians have been killed.
Syria claims its fighting outside forces and is using legitimate methods to protect itself. The Arab League wants Assad to delegate power to a deputy to introduce reforms.