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Clinton: Syria not another Libya, political solution needed

Speaking at the U.N. Security Council US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says, "It is time for the international community to put aside our own differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria."

Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET Wednesday: Amnesty International urges Russia to stop its “unconscionable” obstruction of U.N. efforts to help end the bloodshed in Syria. “Russia’s threats to abort a binding U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria for the second time are utterly irresponsible. Russia bears a heavy responsibility for allowing the brutal crackdown on legitimate dissent in Syria to continue unchecked,” said José Luis Díaz, Amnesty International's representative to the U.N. in New York.


Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Security Council to adopt the Arab League plan for a political process to end the violence in Syria, saying it would be different from U.N. efforts to pacify Libya.

The Arab League plan calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to transfer his powers to his deputy to prepare for elections.

"I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council is headed toward another Libya," she said. "That is a false analogy."

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET: Western and Arab nations launched a major diplomatic offensive at the U.N. on Tuesday in hopes of overcoming Russia's opposition to a resolution demanding that Syrian President Bashar Assad relinquish power, The Associated Press reported.

Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images

Nabil Elaraby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, speaks at the U.N. in New York on Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the British and French foreign ministers traveled to New York for the afternoon Security Council session on the situation in Syria.

Nabil Elaraby, the chief of the Arab League, called on the Security Council to take 'rapid and decisive action' on Syria, Reuters reported

"Realizing the hopes of the Syrian people is in your hands," Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani told council members, asking them to adopt the resolution, based on the Arab League's peace plan for the country. "It is part of your responsibility under the (U.N.) charter," he said, according to The Associated Press. 

Updated at 12:35 p.m. ET: Syrian leader Bashar Assad cannot sustain his hold on power and it is a matter of time before his leadership falls, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told senators, according to Reuters.

"I personally believe it's a question of time before Assad falls, but that's the issue, it could be a long time," Clapper told a Senate intelligence committee hearing. "Protraction of these demonstrations, the opposition continues to be fragmented, but I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria."

Ayman Mohyeldin / NBC News

President Bashar Assad's regime is intensifying its violent crackdown on Syrian protesters, despite international pressure. NBC News' Ayman Mohyeldin is one of the few Western journalists to have been granted permission inside Syria in recent weeks, click to see some of his photos.

Meanwhile, British newspaper the Guardian reported that a copy of the draft U.N. resolution demanding Assad step aside tried to address Russian concerns that the vote could open the door to western military intervention.

The draft obtained by the newspaper said the council is "reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, emphasising the need to resolve the current crisis in Syria peacefully, and stressing that nothing in this resolution compels states to resort to the use of force or the threat of force," according to the newspaper.

The draft did not entirely exclude the possibility of military action, however, the newspaper reported.

Published at 8:30 a.m. ET: A senior Russian diplomat warned Tuesday that a draft U.N. resolution demanding Syrian President Bashar Assad step aside is a "path to civil war," as Syrian troops crushed pockets of resistance by rebel soldiers on the outskirts of Damascus.

The U.N. Security Council was to meet Tuesday to discuss the draft, backed by Western and some Arab powers. But Russia would likely veto any punitive action.

"The Western draft Security Council resolution on Syria does not lead to a search for compromise," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov wrote on Twitter. "Pushing this resolution is a path to civil war."

Russia has been one of Assad's strongest backers as he tries to crush an uprising that began nearly 11 months ago. In October, Moscow vetoed the first council attempt to condemn Syria's crackdown and has shown little sign of budging in its opposition.

President Bashar Assad's regime has slaughtered thousands of people since March, according to the United Nations. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

The draft text of the resolution, seen by The Associated Press, insists there will be no use of foreign forces in the country. It calls on Assad's regime to immediately put "an end to all human rights violations and attacks against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression."

It calls on Assad to delegate his "full authority to his deputy" to allow a national unity government to lead transition to a democratic system. The text, the drafting of which has been led by Morocco, insists it does not compel "states to resort to the use of force, or the threat of force."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday he hoped the Security Council would reflect international will when it deliberates the resolution.

"I sincerely hope the Security Council will be united and speak in a coherent manner reflecting the wishes of the international community," Ban told reporters in the Jordanian capital Amman. "This is crucially important."

China, which like Russia has a veto in the council, also has reservations about the draft. Russia and China vetoed a European-drafted resolution in October that condemned Syria and threatened it with sanctions.

"I don't think we can go on like this," Ban said.

Syria's crackdown on protesters and anti-government fighters had gone on despite a now-suspended Arab League monitoring mission and action was needed to stop the bloodshed, he said.

"Even with the monitoring missions having been there, more than a few hundred have been killed ... every day tens of people are killed ... this should stop immediately," Ban said. "It is crucially important for the Security Council to act on this."

Escalating violence
Meanwhile Tuesday, government troops were deploying in "massive numbers" to the suburbs of Damascus, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told NBC News. The group said at least 11 people had been killed as of Tuesday morning.

The Observatory, which supports the Free Syrian Army, said government forces were targeting civilians who were aiding defectors, NBC reported.

Fighting has escalated in the past several days with at least 100 people killed on Monday alone.

The office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay voiced alarm on Tuesday at the escalating violence and called on Syrian authorities to "stop the killing of civilians" while also urging opposition forces to show restraint.

"It does look like there's a very dangerous and alarming escalation taking place including right in the suburbs of Damascus," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.

"So once again we urge the Syrian authorities to stop the killing of civilians in Syria. And we also urge the opposition fighters to take extreme caution too and ensure that there is no more unnecessary killing," he said.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the uprising as of mid-December, according to Pillay's office.

Despite "high rates of casualties" since then, it has been impossible to verify incidents and lists of victims compiled by five or six human rights groups on the ground, Colville said.

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NBC News, msnbc.com staff, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.