UNITED NATIONS -- An estimated 400 people have been killed in Syria since an Arab League mission arrived in the country to monitor the uprising against the government of President Bashar Assad, a top U.N. official said Tuesday.
United Nations political chief B. Lynn Pascoe provided the latest figures in a closed-door report to the 15-member Security Council on the Syrian uprising that has already claimed more than 5,000 lives since it began almost 10 months ago, diplomats said.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the rate of killings, an average of 40 a day, was even higher than before the monitors arrived.
"That is a clear indication that the government of Syria, rather than using the opportunity of its commitment to the Arab League to end the violence and fulfill all of its commitments under the protocol is instead stepping up the violence, despite the presence of monitors, and carrying out further acts of brutality against its population, even often in the presences of those monitors," Rice said, calling on Assad to step down and make way for a more democratic regime.
Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari blamed the killings on incitement by western powers.
"These victims are falling in Syria because of those who are still insisting on instigating and inciting violence. And I am sure you have heard a lot of these incitement calls from the same countries, from the same representatives who have just spoken to you," Ja'afari told reporters following comments by Rice and the ambassadors from Britain, France and Germany.
"Allow me to remind you that a couple of weeks ago, the spokesperson of the (U.S.) State Department advised the Syrian armed groups not to give up their weapons and not to engage in the nation dialogue," he added.
Western nations and the U.S. are demanding a resolution and threatening sanctions if the violence doesn't stop and condemning Assad's crackdown.
But Russia and China, which have closer ties to Assad's regime, believe extremist opponents of the government are equally responsible for the bloodshed and oppose any mention of sanctions.
On Tuesday, western diplomats accused Russia of stalling after introducing a draft resolution at the end of December that many here felt was insufficient.
"Unfortunately, after a bit of show last month of tabling a resolution, the Russians are inexplicably AWOL in terms of leading negotiations on the text of that resolution," Rice said.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin denied any stalling, saying his country was working on the draft resolution "all the time," but added "members of the council continue to remain rather far apart."
"One of the reasons we have not been throwing various texts around is that we have been following the progress of the Arab League monitoring mission and on the (January) 19th this is going to be another sort of milestone," Churkin said referring to the date the mission was due to issue its report. "But let me say, I think that patience may be the key word now."