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Middle East

EU leaders drop call for immediate UN sanctions


Latest update : 2011-09-28

EU leaders withdrew demands for immediate UN sanctions against Syria Wednesday, following veto threats from Security Council members China and Russia. The EU is seeking action on the Syrian government's continued repression of protesters.

AFP - Western powers dropped calls for immediate sanctions against Syria at the UN Security Council in the face of veto threats from China and Russia, as activists reported more Syrian civilian deaths.

A new draft resolution drawn up by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, with US backing, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Tuesday, threatens to adopt sanctions if the deadly crackdown by Syrian security forces does not end.

The formulation was aimed at overcoming opposition from Russia and China, who have threatened to veto any sanctions resolution brought to the council, which has so far only agreed one statement on the crackdown since mid-March.

"There is a need for a strong Security Council response to the repression," said one European diplomat explaining the resolution.

"There are hopes that this resolution can quickly get a majority in favour on the council," said a diplomat from a second council member.

Rights groups said that the violence on the ground was continuing.

Syrian forces killed at least six civilians in raids on dissidents Tuesday, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Three civilians were killed and seven others were injured during an assault by the army and security agents against the Homs district of Bayada," it said.

The attack came after soldiers who had abandoned the government forces burned a tank in the area, the rights group said.

Government forces killed two civilians during raids in the northern town of Jabal al-Zawiya, and another civilian was killed and five wounded in a dawn operation in southern Daraa province, where the protests began in mid-March.

Powerful guns, some mounted on tanks, were used on people in Rastan, Talbisseh and Tir Maala, all in central Homs province, the Observatory added.

"At least 20 people were wounded, seven seriously, when soldiers using heavy machine guns on tanks began to open fire at sunrise in Rastan," it said.

The Local Coordination Committees, which organise protests on the ground, reported a "massive deployment" of security forces in Rastan.

In a blog he launched on Tuesday, British ambassador to Damascus Simon Collis said Assad's regime saw "only one way out -- the return to authoritarian rule where fear surpasses a desire for freedom.

"This is a regime that remains determined to control every significant aspect of political life in Syria," Collis wrote.

"It is used to power. And it will do anything to keep it."

On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, speaking at the annual UN General Assembly, accused foreign governments of trying to undermine the co-existence among Syria's different religious groups.

"How can we otherwise explain media provocations, financing and arming religious extremism?" he asked.

"What purpose could this serve other than total chaos that would dismember Syria -- and consequently adversely affect its neighbours?"

Anti-regime protests in which at least 2,700 people had been killed had become a "pretext for foreign interventions," he added.

Damascus does not accept the existence of popular opposition to the authorities, instead blaming "armed gangs" and "terrorists" for trying to sow chaos.

But US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: "I would say that the opposition's shown extraordinary restraint in the face of the regime's brutality and demanding their rights through peaceful unarmed demonstrations.

"It goes without saying that the longer the regime continues to repress, kill and jail these peaceful activists, the more likely that this peaceful movement's going to become violent."

The opposition Syrian National Council meanwhile announced plans to meet in Istanbul this weekend to try to unify the fragmented coalition.

"We will meet on October 1 and 2, in principle in Istanbul," spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani told AFP. "Then we will talk about setting up committees."

The council, which was set up in August, consists of 140 people. Half of them live in Syria and their names have not been made public for security reasons.

In New York, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi urged the global community to "handle the Syrian issue in a prudent way so as to prevent further turbulence in Syria and its repercussions on regional peace."

China has joined Russia in opposing sanctions against Syria.

"We hope that parties in Syria will exercise restraint, avoid any form of violence or more bloodshed and conflict, and act quickly to ease tension," Uang added.

His speech followed a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who urged China to back strong UN action on Syria, a senior US official said.


Date created : 2011-09-28


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