Hear Syrians' suffering, France urges

Johannesburg - French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Thursday urged South Africa to hear Syrians' suffering, after the nation refused to support a UN resolution condemning a deadly crackdown on protests.

On the first day of Juppe's visit to South Africa, he urged the nation not to remain "deaf to the distress of Syria and remain passive in front of crimes against humanity committed in Syria".

"The South African people represent the legacy of the ANC," he said in a speech at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Syria's lethal response to protests that erupted in mid-March has left more than 3 500 people dead, according to the United Nations, and fed increasing international anger at the regime in Damascus.

Last month South Africa abstained from a vote at the UN Security Council for a resolution backed by Western powers to condemn the violence, claiming a "hidden agenda" to bring down President Bashar Assad's government.

South Africa has condemned the violence in Syria, but remains bitter about Nato's campaign in Libya, which the alliance justified with a UN no-fly zone that Pretoria had backed.

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