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UN prepares to vote on Syria aid

Geneva - The UN on Friday urged countries outside of the Middle East to take in more Syrian refugees, as the UN Security Council prepares to vote on a resolution on humanitarian aid access in the war-torn country.

The Western and Arab-backed draft resolution calling for immediate humanitarian aid access and an end to violence against civilians makes provision for the use of force in the case of non-compliance.

Syrian civilians are evacuated during a humanitarian operation in the besieged Syrian city of Homs. Picture: Bassel Tawil. Credit: AFP

Syria ally Russia is reportedly still discussing the draft that was finalized late Wednesday.

Diplomats said the draft would be put to a vote in the 15-member Security Council early Saturday.

Russia and China, members with veto powers, have previously blocked UN action on Syria.

The main point of contention between Russia and other members is reportedly the provision on the use of force.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on countries to grant permanent residence to 100,000 Syrians in the next two years, to relieve Syria's immediate neighbours.

To date the UN programme had aimed to resettle 30,000 refugees by the end of this year.

Some 18,000 have so far been taken up by 20 countries under this programme, said UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton.

“UNHCR anticipates that in the coming years, there will be increasing numbers of vulnerable Syrian refugees who will be in need of resettlement, relocation, or other forms of humanitarian admission,” McNorton said.

The agency also called on countries to also consider other ways to share the burden with Syria's neighbours, through scholarships and family re-unification programmes or the intake of people in need of medical treatment.

The Syrian conflict, which began with peaceful demonstrations in March 2011, has claimed at least 140 000 lives, according to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Some 2.4 million people have fled the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced, out of a total population of 22.4 million, according to UN estimates.

Sapa-dpa

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