The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee on Tuesday condemned Syria for its eight-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in a vote backed by Western nations and most Arab states.

The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, received 122 votes in favour, 13 against and 41 abstentions. Thirteen Arab states, including the six Arab co-sponsors, voted for it, as did Syria's erstwhile ally Turkey.

Russia and China, which vetoed a European-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution last month that would have condemned Syria and threatened possible future sanctions, abstained, according to an official U.N. tally, which diplomats said could indicate a shift in their positions.

Countries that voted against the resolution included Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Vietnam.

The overwhelming support for the committee's non-binding resolution showed how isolated Damascus has become. Compared to the three other countries singled out for condemnations by the General Assembly's Third Committee -- Iran, North Korea and Myanmar -- Syria had the least number of supporters.

Arab states voting for the declaration were Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. Syria was the only Arab state to vote against it, while Algeria, Comoros, Lebanon and Yemen abstained.

Arab League members Iraq, Djibouti and Somalia did not vote in the committee, where all 193 U.N. nations are represented.

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the resolution had no meaning for Damascus and portrayed it as a U.S.-inspired political move.

Although the draft resolution is submitted primarily from three European countries it is not a secret that the United States of America is the mastermind and main instigator of the political campaign against my country, Ja'afari said.

BACK TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL?

This draft resolution definitely has nothing to do with human rights; it is only a part of the typically hostile policy by the United States against Syria, he added.

Ja'afari held up for delegates what he said were documents naming terrorists arrested while smuggling arms into Syria. He said the documents offered clear proof of a U.S.-led plot to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The resolution says the committee strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the persecution and killing of protesters and human rights defenders.

It also demands an immediate end to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill treatment of detainees, including children in Syria, where more than 3,500 people have died in the crackdown, according to U.N. figures.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said it was time to move the issue back to the 15-nation Security Council, which has been deadlocked on Syria due to Russian and Chinese opposition.

The Security Council cannot fall behind the region, he said, referring to the Arab League suspension of Syria. We would encourage the ... council to come back to this issue.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement that the resolution sends a signal of united condemnation of the Syrian regime's systematic human rights abuses.

As long as the crisis in Syria continues the international pressure on the Assad regime will only intensify, he said.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice also welcomed the committee's adoption of the resolution, which will be confirmed by a new vote in a plenary meeting of the General Assembly next month.

By overwhelmingly adopting its first-ever resolution on Syria's human rights abuses, the ... Third Committee has sent a clear message that it does not accept abuse and death as a legitimate path to retaining power, she said in a statement.

Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch praised the committee's vote: By siding with the victims of the Syrian government's ruthless repression, the General Assembly has succeeded where the Security Council had failed, paralyzed by the vetoes of Russia and China, he said. (Editing by Jackie Frank)