The five permanent UN Security Council members have struggled to agree on a resolution to deal with Syria's chemical arsenal. While Western nations said there was some accord, this was flatly denied by the Russians.
The permanent powers - the US, Russia, China, France, and Great Britain - met on Wednesday to iron out the details of a resolution on the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stocks.
While some Western diplomatic sources said there was overall agreement on the core principles of the text, others were more circumspect.
"It seems that things are moving forward," said one source, who said there was "an agreement among the five on the core." He added: "We are closer on all the key points."
One US source was more cautious, noting that further work was needed. "We're making progress, but we're not done yet," the official told the Reuters news agency.
A spokesman for the Russian delegation was dismissive of the Western suggestion that key agreements had been reached. "It's just their wishful thinking," he told Reuters. "It is not the reality. The work on the draft resolution is still going on."
Ban's call for urgency
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had earlier pressed the five permanent members of the Security Council to overcome their differences on the wider Syrian conflict and to agree a resolution that dealt with chemicals weapons.
Ban hosted a lunch with the foreign ministers of the major powers, discussing a Russian and US plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapon stocks, as well as proposals for a peace conference to be held in Geneva.
"They exchanged views on the timing and other aspects of the peace conference to be held in Geneva," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky. "The secretary general and the ministers underlined the importance of heightened efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis both inside Syria and in the neighboring countries."
The US claims that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were behind a sarin gas attack in a Damascus suburb that killed more than 1,400 people. Until the agreement with Russia, Washington had threatened the use of military action in response to the incident.
However, Russia claims that the rebels were behind the attack. Moscow has demanded that any resolution should not invoke Chapter 7 of the UN Charter - which provides for military as well as non-military enforcement.
China and Russia - who as permanent members of the Security Council have a veto on resolutions - have blocked three previous efforts to pass a text that condemned al-Assad over the force of the crackdown by his military during the past two-and-a-half years of conflict in the country.
rc/ccp (AFP, Reuters)