Syria veto: China, Russia condemned

2012-02-05 21:23
Syrian mourners gather around the coffins of the victims who were by a bombardment of mortars and rockets during a mass funeral procession, in Khaldiyeh neighbourhood in Homs province. (Local Co-ordination Committees in Syria, AP)

Syrian mourners gather around the coffins of the victims who were by a bombardment of mortars and rockets during a mass funeral procession, in Khaldiyeh neighbourhood in Homs province. (Local Co-ordination Committees in Syria, AP)

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Damascus - Outrage grew on Sunday after Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its crackdown on protests, with the opposition saying it handed the regime a "licence to kill".

Saturday's rare double veto drew international condemnation, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling it a "travesty" and vowing to push for new sanctions on Syria.

Russia defended its veto saying Western powers refused to reach a consensus.

"The authors of the draft Syria resolution, unfortunately, did not want to undertake an extra effort and come to a consensus," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov wrote on Twitter.

The veto came hours after the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) reported a "massacre" overnight on Friday in the central flashpoint city of Homs where more than 230 civilians were killed during an assault by regime forces.

On Sunday, activists reported more shelling in Homs, with the restive Baba Amro neighbourhood targeted.

The death toll rose to at least 88 people reported killed over the weekend - one of the bloodiest since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted almost 11 months ago.

Opposition groups say at least 6 000 people have now been killed in Syria.

Second UN double veto

The second UN double veto in four months fuelled angry reactions from Washington and fears among Syrian activists of a new surge of violence that will once again target Homs.

"We have to increase diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime and work to convince those people around President Assad that he must go and that there has to be a recognition of that and a new start," Clinton said.

"We will work to seek regional and national sanctions against Syria and strengthen the ones we have," she said, stressing the need "to dry up the sources of funding and the arms shipments that are keeping the regime's war machine going."

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov prepared to visit Damascus on Tuesday, as news reports said the mission could try to push Assad to quit.

"Russia strongly intends to achieve a rapid stabilisation of the situation in Syria through the rapid implementation of much-needed democratic reforms," the Russian foreign ministry said.

The state RIA Novosti news agency ran an analysis quoting Russian experts as saying Lavrov's visit would be aimed at persuading Assad to step down.

"It is possible that there will be an attempt to persuade the Syrian president to accept the variant proposed by the Arab League," for Assad to quit, Middle East expert Vladimir Akhmedov told the agency.

The SNC voiced dismay over the UN veto.

"The SNC holds Russia and China accountable for the escalation of killings and genocide, and considers this irresponsible step a licence for the Syrian regime to kill," it said in a statement.

In Libya, crowds of Syrians chanting anti-Russian slogans entered Moscow's Tripoli embassy and replaced the Russian flag with the new Syrian flag in protest while hundreds protested outside the Russian embassy in Beirut.

Turkish police fired tear gas to disperse protesters seeking to storm the Syrian consulate in Istanbul.

Assad shelled Homs

Assad's troops shelled Homs overnight Friday, killing at least 260 civilians, the SNC said, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 100 women and children were among its toll of 237 dead.

The tolls could not be independently confirmed. Damascus denied responsibility, blaming the deaths on rebels seeking to swing the UN vote.

On Sunday, activists in Homs expressed fear of a new attack on the protest hub in central Syria.

"We are afraid... particularly after the Russian veto," activist Abu Rami told AFP in Beirut by telephone. "Explosions can be heard since morning in the old district of Homs."

Another activist, Omar Shaker, said the restive neighbourhood of Baba Amro was shelled from morning till early afternoon. "We were used to mortar shells but today they used rocket launchers."

A video posted on the internet showed a rocket apparently slamming into Baba Amro and a man emerging from a cloud of dust carrying a wounded child.

The UN resolution - approved by 13 of the 15-member Security Council - was proposed by European and Arab nations to give strong backing to an Arab League plan to end the crackdown.

On Sunday, League chief Nabil al-Arabi said the bloc would press on with mediation efforts to find a political solution in Syria to avoid foreign intervention in Syria.

Syrian government mouthpiece Tishrin called the veto "a catalyst" and said it would help accelerate reforms in the country.

Tunisia urged other Arab nations to follow its lead after it said on Saturday it was expelling Syria's ambassador and withdrawing its recognition of the Assad government.

The Syrian Observatory said 19 civilians, including at least four children, and 21 regular army troops were killed on Sunday, a day after 48 people were reported dead, raising the weekend toll to 88.

Read more on:    arab league  |  un  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

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