1 of 2 | Vitaly Churkin, Russia's United Nations permanent representative, addresses the Security Council and the issue of the Arab League's peace plan for Syria at the UN on January 31, 2012 in New York City. The proposed plan calls for the transfer of power from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to his deputy and for free elections to be held. UPI/Monika Graff | License Photo
BRUSSELS, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Fears of a Russian veto of a U.N. Security Resolution on Syria mellowed European positions on ways to defuse the violent government-opposition showdown in the Middle Eastern country only days after the European Union issued tough sanctions against Iran.
The contrast between the EU's resolute stand on Iran and Brussels' readiness to compromise and accommodate Russian demands was seen by analysts as a last-minute attempt to avert a Russian veto that could undo weeks of mediation by European and Arab League negotiations.
The resulting text of the U.N. resolution removes most of the key conditions set out by the West, including President Bashar Assad's departure from power.
It also opens the way for Assad's government to try and manage reforms and, eventually, some sort of transition. The Russians reportedly insisted on refashioning the text to ensure any transition would be "Syrian-led" and not open the way for outside intervention.
Russian objections center on Moscow's contention that last year's U.N. authorization of a no-fly zone was used as a loophole by NATO to launch military strikes that helped unseat Moammar Gadhafi and install a pro-West national transitional coalition in Tripoli.
However, deep suspicions and uncertainties remain over the anti-Assad rebel presence in Syria amid reports the so-called Free Syria Army is receiving large quantities of weapons from unknown sources.
Assad's government is also continuing to receive large arms shipments from Russia as part of what Moscow maintains are agreements reached before the uprising began last year.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Thursday that arms deliveries to Syria will continue despite the ongoing violence.
"As of today there are no restrictions on the delivery of weapons, and we must fulfill our obligations," Antonov said. "And this is what we are doing."
Analysts said a deepening stalemate and continuing violence in Syria risked opening new fronts as increasingly armed rebels and government forces confronted each other, with thousands of unarmed pro-democracy activists caught in the middle.
The arms build-up means that a bloodier confrontation could still erupt in Syria no matter what a U.N. resolution did or did not include in the text. This week's diplomatic efforts were focused on Russian attempts to water down the resolution and strip it of any text that, in Russian view, opened the way to regime change in Damascus.
The resolution must be approved by the Security Council's 15 members, including Russia, which vetoed a similar proposal in October.
The new resolution condemns the violence on both sides and would adopt across-the-board steps to end the bloodshed that the Arab League has demanded since November.
They include ending all violence, releasing detained protesters, withdrawing Syrian troops from civilian areas and guaranteeing the right to peaceful demonstrations.
However, analysts said, enforcement of such an ambitious brief was in doubt.
Even if Assad agreed to pull back his forces the disarming of disparate rebel groups would remain a major challenge in the absence of a U.N. or international peacekeeping presence in Syria to see to an implementation of the resolution's key provisions.
The United Nations stopped estimating the death toll from the uprising after it passed 5,400 in January, saying it was too difficult to confirm numbers.
The Syrian government says at least 2,000 members of its security forces have been killed combating "armed gangs and terrorists." The opposition Friday cited more than 6,000 deaths since the protests began last year.
Analysts say the outcome in Syria would also influence the crisis over Iran's nuclear program, and vice versa, because of close strategic ties between the two countries and Syria's dependence on Iran's economic, military and political aid.
Activists daubed red paint in the streets to symbolize blood and staged demonstrations after the Friday prayers to mark the anniversary of a 1982 uprising crushed by Bashar al-Assad's late father Hafez al-Assad, the former president. The government crackdown then caused the deaths of up to 40,000 civilians in Hama, according to international rights groups.
Activists in Hama painted roads red and led a general strike, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.