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Russia, China Veto UN Syria Resolution

February 04, 2012

Russia and China have vetoed a UN resolution backing an Arab peace plan calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The other 13 council members, including the U.S., France, and Britain, voted in favor of the resolution aimed at stopping the ongoing violence in Syria.

The resolution was discussed in a special Security Council meeting in New York on February 4.

In addition to calling for a transition government in Syria, the text had maintained strong condemnation of the "continued widespread gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities."

It also called for "an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation, and extremism, and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people."

The veto drew strong criticism from UN and Western officials.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky quoted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as saying the veto "undermines the role of the United Nations and the international community" at a time when Damascus must hear a unified voice calling for "an immediate end to its violence against the Syrian people."

Britain's UN mission said Russia and China "shamefully vetoed" the resolution.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud said, "It is a sad day for this council, a sad day for Syrians, and a sad day for all friends of democracy."

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said her country was "disgusted" by the vote.

In Munich, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a security conference it has not been possible to work constructively with Russian on a UN draft resolution.

She said, "there are those who prevent the world community from condemning Syria [for the] violence."

Moscow had said before the vote that the resolution was not "hopeless" but its wording needed to be altered to avoid "taking sides in a civil war."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on February 4 in Munich that the draft resolution made too few demands on armed groups opposing President Assad's regime.

"Support for one particular side in an internal conflict and attempts to impose a political scheme on the scale and pace of reforms from the outside present a dangerous path that leads to the expansion of zones of instability and the strengthening of elements of chaos in international affairs," Lavrov said.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that the proposed Security Council resolution "sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties." He also said Western nations behind the resolution were "calling for regime change, pushing the opposition towards power."

China's official news agency Xinhua quoted Li Baodong, the Chinese representative to the UN, as saying further consultation was needed on the resolution text.

Homs Shelling

The vote at the UN took place a day after Syrian forces pummeled the city of Homs with mortar and artillery fire. Activists say the attack on February 3 killed 217 people and left hundreds wounded.

Syria's state-run news agency SANA blamed the deaths on "armed terrorist groups" and called reports of army involvement a "distortion" and an attempt by satellite television channels to falsify information.

But U.S. President Barack Obama accused the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of murdering civilians in an "unspeakable assault" in the city of Homs.

"Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately," Obama said in a statement.

Many other world leaders have also condemned the attack.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called it a "further step in savagery" and a "crime against humanity" by the Damascus regime.

Separately, Tunisia said it no longer recognized Assad’s regime and had decided to expel the Syrian ambassador from Tunis.

The UN says more than 5,400 people have been killed over almost 11 months in a Syrian government crackdown on civilian protests.

With agency reports

Source: with_un_draft_resolution_on_syria/24473720.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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