The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution slamming the Security Council's failure to act on the Syria conflict, which UN leader Ban Ki-moon said has become a "proxy war".
The resolution, which condemned President Bashar al-Assad's use of "heavy weapons" in the civil war, was passed by 133 votes with 12 countries against and 31 abstaining.
Russia and China, which have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, were among opponents who blasted the resolution, which was not legally binding but took added importance after the resignation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and as the battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo rages.
UN members deplored "the Security Council failure to agree on measures" to make the Syrian government carry out UN demands to end almost 18 months of fighting, said the resolution.
It condemned "the Syrian authorities' use of heavy weapons including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters" and demanded that the government refrain from using its chemical weapons.
Saudi Arabia drew up the resolution with Arab and western backing. Its UN envoy, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, told the assembly the Russia-China vetoes gave "the impression that the Security Council was turning a blind eye to the painful reality."
He said there was "a consensus that does not support the paralysis of the Security Council, a consensus that says the United Nations cannot be oblivious to the suffering of the Syrian people, a consensus that demands action."
"Despite the continued opposition of an increasingly isolated minority, the overwhelming majority of UN members clearly stands resolutely with the Syrian people," commented US ambassador Susan Rice after the vote.
The French and British governments also welcomed the resolution. The vote shows that "the international community condemns the massive and systematic violations of human rights in Syria and the use of arms of war by the regime against its people," said France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Russia and China have justified their Security Council vetoes by saying western nations want to force the downfall of Assad.
Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin blasted the resolution, saying it gave "blatant" support to Syrian rebels and that its backers were the countries providing "mercenaries and arms" to the opposition.
China's deputy UN ambassador Wang Min said pressuring only the Syrian government will "cause further escalation of the turmoil and let the crisis spill over to other countries in the region."
Saudi Arabia dropped demands in the motion calling for Assad to stand down and sanctions against his government because of opposition from countries including India, Brazil and South Africa, diplomats said.
Syria strongly opposed the resolution and slammed the Arab backers. Its UN envoy, Bashar Jaafari, alleged that Stinger missiles were being brought into Syria from Turkey.
Other countries expressed reservations. South Africa, which voted in favor, said the resolution should have been tougher on the Syrian opposition.
The UN secretary general Ban told the assembly the conflict has become a "proxy war" and that the international powers must overcome rivalries to end the violence.
Ban said growing radicalization and extremism had been predicted at the start of the conflict in March 2011.
"The next step was also forewarned: a proxy war, with regional and international players arming one side or the other. All of these dire predictions have come to pass," Ban told the assembly.
Ban said the "brutality" being reported from the fighting in Aleppo could amount to crimes against humanity and again criticized the Security Council, which he said was "paralyzed" by divisions.
"Now, with the situation having worsened, they must again find common ground. The immediate interests of the Syrian people must be paramount over any larger rivalries of influence."
Ban said the Syria conflict "is a test of everything this organization stands for" and the United Nations must avoid a repeat of its failure in Srebrenica. UN peacekeepers were accused of failing to stop the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim boys and men in the Bosnian town in July 1995.