NEW YORK, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Russia's threats to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria gives Damascus a blank check to kill more people, Amnesty International said.
The Security Council is debating a draft resolution submitted by Morocco that calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step aside. Russia, which maintains a military trade relationship with Syria, said it objects to any resolution out of fear of sanctioning another war like last year's conflict in Libya.
Sanjeev Bery, Amnesty International's advocacy director for Middle East and North African affairs, said Russia's obstruction was "unconscionable."
"By threatening another veto, Russia is giving Syria a free pass to commit more killings, torture more people, and make more arrests without cause. Russia's stance in the face of the crackdown on peaceful protests is shocking," he said in a statement.
The United Nations puts the death toll in Syria at more than 5,000 people since an uprising against Assad's regime began last March. Syria maintains its fighting an armed insurgency backed by foreign interventionists.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice described the Security Council debates as "constructive" but said it was "way too soon" to know if there would be an agreement regarding Syria.
"Everybody is trying to approach this in a constructive and rational way and that that, in itself, is progress," she said.