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UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution on Wednesday expressing outrage at "widespread and systematic gross violations" by Syrian authorities.

The resolution, initiated by Saudi Arabia on behalf of dozens of states including the U.S., is one of the strongest criticisms yet of the regime of President Bashar Assad. It also expresses "grave concern at the spread of extremism and extremist groups" in Syria.

The resolution, approved 127 to 13, with 47 countries abstaining, is not legally binding, but it's a strong expression of world opinion on the conflict in Syria, where fighting between the government and opposition has left more than 100,000 dead.

The U.N. Security Council, whose resolutions are legally binding, has been largely stalled on taking strong action on Syria because of vetoes from Russia, the country's top ally.

The Syrian ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Ja'afari, called the General Assembly resolution "outrageously hostile."

Ja'afari also criticized Saudi Arabia, which backs the rebels and has strongly criticized the Security Council's failure to resolve Syria's civil war, as a supporter of terrorists "throughout the world."

The British mission to the U.N. called the vote a "strong result."

The resolution condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria and "strongly points" to their use by the Syrian government in an Aug. 21 poison gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

It also notes that the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference have held the Syrian government "fully responsible" for the Ghouta attacks, and calls on the Security Council to take "the necessary measures against all those responsible for the chemical weapons attack" to ensure accountability.

The resolution demands an end to all human rights abuses, the immediate release of all detainees and immediate steps by the Syrian government to expand humanitarian relief operations.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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