By Michelle Nichols
(Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council will not vote on Thursday on a draft resolution to condemn a deadly gas attack in a rebel-held area of northern Syria, but will continue negotiations, a British diplomat said.
Western countries have blamed President Bashar al-Assad's armed forces for Tuesday's attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in a rebel-held area of northern Syria hit by government air strikes. Syria's government has denied responsibility.
The United States, Britain and France proposed a draft resolution on Tuesday to condemn the attack and press Syria to cooperate with international investigators. Russia said the text was unacceptable and proposed a rival draft.
The elected 10 members of the 15-member council proposed a third draft resolution, based on the text by Western powers, on Thursday evening in a bid to reach consensus.
"U.N. Security Council will no longer vote on the (resolution) on Syria this evening. Consultations among Council members are ongoing," British diplomat Stephen Hickey posted on Twitter.
In February, Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, cast its seventh veto to protect Assad's government from council action, blocking a bid by Western powers to impose sanctions over accusations of chemical weapons attacks. China has vetoed six resolutions on Syria.
A Security Council resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass.
"Efforts continue to reach unity on a strong (Security Council) resolution w/ strong condemnation, immediate independent investigation & accountability," Swedish diplomat Carl Skau posted on Twitter.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Toni Reinhold)