United Nations: European and Arab nations called on the UN Security Council to back an Arab League plan on the Syria crisis under which President Bashar al-Assad would have to step down.
   
Morocco presented a draft resolution to the 15-nation body drawn up by Arab states with Britain, France and Germany -- that seeks to end months of UN deadlock over Syria.
   
Russia and China vetoed a previous European resolution in October, accusing the West of seeking regime change.
   
"I think we have the chance today to open a new chapter on Syria," said Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig as he entered Friday’s talks.
   
The draft, which still faces days of talks amid doubts from Russia and its allies, says the council "fully supports" an Arab League plan released last weekend under which Assad would hand over powers to a deputy so that new elections can be held.
   
The text "encourages" all states to follow sanctions imposed by the Arab League against Syria in November, but contains no mandatory action.
   
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said earlier in Moscow that his country would not support any measure which orders Assad to leave office, Russian media reported.

Diplomats said they hoped for a vote within days. Official talks on the resolution are only expected to start on Monday however. Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi and Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani are to brief the council Tuesday about the Syria plan.

(Agencies)