NEW YORK — The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for a resolution backing an Arab League plan calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and strongly condemning human rights violations by his regime.
The vote in the 193-member world body on the Arab-sponsored resolution was 137-12 with 17 abstentions.
Several countries complained immediately afterward that they unable to vote due to problems with the UN's voting machine.
Russia and China, who vetoed a similar resolution in the Security Council, voted against the General Assembly measure along with North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and others who heeded Syria's appeal to vote "no."
Supporters were hoping for a high "yes" vote to deliver a strong message to Assad to hand power to his vice president and immediately stop the bloody crackdown that has killed over 5,400 people. The measure had over 70 co-sponsors and won support from more than two-thirds of the General Assembly.
"Today, the UN General Assembly sent a clear message to the people of Syria: the world is with you," US Ambassador Susan Rice said in a statement.
President Assad "has never been more isolated. A rapid transition to democracy in Syria has garnered the resounding support of the international community. Change must now come."
Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah Y. Al Mouallimi called it "a victory for the Syria people," the UN and the Arab League.
"It is a message that the international community is sending loud and clear that the struggle of the Syrian people is not unheard and is not responded to," he said, and it reaffirms that the Security Council's failure to adopt a resolution on Syria earlier this month "does not reflect the will and the desire of the international community."
There are no vetoes in the General Assembly and while their resolutions are not legally binding, they do reflect world opinion on major issues.
The transfer of power to Syria's vice president is part of the Arab League plan for a transitional government which was adopted on Jan. 22. It calls for the establishment of a national unity government within two months to prepare for internationally supervised parliamentary and presidential elections. (AP)