Britain, the US and France are seeking Russian support for a new UN security council resolution to endorse Arab demands that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, step down.

In a fresh twist, western countries have, in effect, abandoned attempts to impose UN sanctions on the Assad regime and are hoping for a new consensus for a political solution to the bloody ten month impasse.

The basis for the new approach is the Arab League’s latest plan that called on Assad to hand over powers to his deputy and set up a national unity government with the opposition. Syria lambasted the plan as “flagrant interference” in its internal affairs and accused Arab states of attempting to “internationalise” the crisis.

The secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, and Hamed bin Jassem al-Thani, the Qatari prime minister, are planning to brief the UN secretary general in New York in the next few days, Arabi’s deputy, Ahmed ben Helli, revealed in Cairo mid-week.

If Russia is supportive, the hope is to pass a UN resolution early next month forcing Assad to confront solid international opposition.