by EDITH M. LEDERER , Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Saturday demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria "without delay" to deliver humanitarian aid to millions and evacuate the critically ill and wounded.
The vote was delayed for two days to try to get support from Russia, which said repeatedly that an immediate cease-fire was unrealistic.
Sponsors Kuwait and Sweden amended the resolution late Friday in a last-minute attempt to satisfy Russia, dropping a demand that the cease-fire take effect in 72 hours.
The effort worked, though U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley was sharply critical of Russia for delaying the vote, saying it cost lives.
There is no set time for the cease-fire to take effect, but the resolution demands that it be followed immediately by access for humanitarian convoys and medical teams to evacuate the critically ill and wounded.
The resolution states that 5.6 million people in 1,244 communities are in "acute need," including 2.9 million in hard-to-reach and besieged locations.
Sweden's U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog told the council just before the vote that "the U.N. convoys and evacuation teams are ready to go."
Sweden, Kuwait and many other countries have been pressing for immediate U.N. action as deaths mount in a Syrian bombing campaign in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta.
"In the 3 days it took us to adopt this resolution, how many mothers lost their kids to the bombings & shelling?" Haley says. "The Syrian people should not have to die waiting for Russia to organize instructions from Moscow or discuss it with the Syrians." https://t.co/CsNlvSN0P7 pic.twitter.com/MXKeTsIpi0— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 24, 2018
The resolution calls for all parties to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas including eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, Foua and Kefraya.
The Security Council authorized one exemption from the cease-fire.
It said attacks directed at extremists from the Islamic State group and all al-Qaida affiliates including the Nusra Front will be allowed to continue.