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BEIJING / United Nations - The veto by China and Russia of a draft UN resolution to promote regime change in Syria will win more time for a political solution to the crisis, experts said.
But the diplomatic divide on the Syrian issue will remain and possibly worsen, they said.
Taleb Ibrahim, a Syrian political analyst, said in Damascus that the veto on Saturday by China and Russia would usher in a new balance of global power. "The UN will no longer be a tool in the hands of the US and its allies to pass their military schemes."
The veto will help restore peace and stability in the country and will also save Syrian lives, Ibrahim said.
The draft resolution was in accordance with an Arab League plan that demanded a government change in Syria. The resolution, tabled by Morocco and backed by the US and some European powers, received 13 votes from the 15 UN Security Council members.
It was the second time since October that China and Russia joined hands to block a UN resolution on Syria.
China's veto follows the principle of non-interference in internal affairs as stated in the UN Charter, said Dong Manyuan, vice-president at the China Institute of International Studies. The UN does not have the right to request a regime change or military intervention in a sovereign state, he said.
The Chinese move was an attempt to seek a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis and prevent it from escalating, Dong said.
China's ambassador to the UN, Li Baodong, said that while the international community should provide constructive assistance to help achieve peace in Syria, "the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria should be fully respected".
Li added that pressuring the Syrian government or imposing any sanctions would not help.
"To push through a vote when parties are still seriously divided over the issue will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help properly resolve the issue. In this context, China voted against the draft resolution," Li said.
China supports proposals suggested by Russia, Li said.
Hours before the Security Council's vote on the draft, Russia circulated an amended resolution, which it said "aims to fix two basic problems".
The first was the imposition of conditions on dialogue, and the second was that measures must be taken to influence not only the government but also anti-government armed groups.
The draft resolution said that the Security Council "fully supports" the Arab League's plan to ask Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
"If the draft resolution was passed by the UN and President Assad refuses to transfer power, Syria would become a second Libya within two months," Dong said.
The UN put the death toll in Syria during the unrest, after nearly a year, at more than 5,400, while the Syrian government said more than 2,000 army and security personnel have been killed.
China has maintained that the Syrian crisis should be solved within the framework of the Arab League, but the league itself is split, Dong said.
Some members, such as Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria, do not agree with the draft resolution, Dong said.
Tunisia on Sunday urged other Arab nations to follow its lead a day after it said it was expelling Syria's ambassador and withdrawing recognition of the Assad government.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday said that France was consulting with Arab and European countries to create a contact group on Syria to find a solution to the crisis.
"France is not giving up," he said in a statement, saying Paris was in touch with Arab and European partners to create a "Friends of the Syrian People Group" that would marshal international support to implement the Arab League plan.
The Syrian government's efforts to establish dialogue have been hampered by the West that wants to see the current regime collapse, said An Huihou, former Chinese ambassador to Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt.
"If the principle of not intervening in a country's internal affairs is violated, the bottom line of sovereignty for many medium- and small-sized countries will be damaged," he said. "Every country has a right to decide its own development path and administration method."
He added that no consensus had been reached among opposition parties either inside or outside Syria and that increased the difficulty of establishing political dialogue between the government and opposition.
The veto was used to avoid an escalation of the conflict and prevent civil war, he said.
Xinhua and Li Lianxing in Beijing contributed to this story.