The resolution was expected to easily pass in the 193-member General Assembly after its Arab sponsors weakened two key provisions — a demand that President Bashar Assad resign and a call for other nations to place sanctions on Syria over its civil war.
With the tougher language, the Saudi resolution had been in danger of falling below 100 votes and would have been seen as weak and lacking moral authority. General Assembly resolutions are unenforceable.
The original draft calling for Assad to resign was opposed by Russia and China, which have cast a double veto in the more powerful Security Council three times to kill resolutions that could have opened the door to sanctions on Syria, or even military intervention.
The revised resolution takes a swipe at Russia and China by "deploring the Security Council failure" to act.
A frustrated former U.N. chief Kofi Annan resigned Thursday as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria after his peace proposals failed.
The Syria uprising has left 19,000 dead since it erupted in March 2011. The U.N. estimates that 1.5 million people have been forced to abandon their homes but remain in the country.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council on Thursday that U.N. military observers in Aleppo were seeing "a considerable buildup of military means, where we have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start."
The draft resolution by Saudi Arabia denounces attacks on children as young as 9 by the Syrian government, military intelligence services and militias, as well as "killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, and use as human shields."
It also condemns the increasing Syrian military reliance on heavy weapons, including tanks and helicopters, and "failure to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons to their barracks" in line with Annan's proposals.
It backs Annan's "demand that the first step in the cessation of violence has to be made by the Syrian authorities."
French Ambassador Geraud Araud, the president of the Security Council for the month, criticized Russia and China for blocking Security Council actions.
"The risk is that some countries have drawn the conclusion that it is over, that the Council is impotent on Syria," Araud said.
Another likely victim of the Security Council stalemate are the U.N. military observers who have been monitoring the spiraling violence in Syria. The mission is in the midst of a 30-day extension of its mandate, which expires on Aug. 19. Extending it would require passage of another resolution in the Security Council.
The mission has been largely kept from its work by the violence, and it is already being cut back, from its original authorized strength of 300 to currently 115 monitors and 80 civilians.
"There will be no agreement, I think," Araud said. "It is clear that the mission will disappear by Aug. 19."