Syria opposition urges action ahead of UN showdown

Syria opposition urges action ahead of UN showdown
# 31 January 2012 18:21 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Syria’s opposition urged the international community to act and deplored its failure to stop "massacres" amid spiralling violence ahead of a UN Security Council showdown on Tuesday, APA reports AFP.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in neighbouring Jordan for talks on Middle East peace, urged the Security Council to overcome bitter differences over Syria to increase pressure to end the bloodshed.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading a Western charge to press Russia to back Security Council action to stop a crackdown on dissent the United Nations says has killed more than 5,400 people in the past 10 months.

Veto-wielding Russia has objected to a resolution introduced by Morocco which calls for the regime to put an immediate stop to violence against protesters and for President Bashar al-Assad to hand power to his deputy.

"I don’t think Russian policy is about asking people to step down. Regime change is not our profession," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, stressing that while the Syrian president was not an ally, it was not up to other nations to interfere.

The text seen by AFP calls for the formation of a unity government leading to "transparent and free elections," while stressing there will be no foreign military intervention in Syria.

Assad’s government has already flatly rejected a similarly worded resolution proposed by the Arab League.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, said on Tuesday that pushing the resolution through would be the "path towards civil war" in a country where an increasingly bold insurgency is harrowing regime forces.

The opposition Syrian National Council deplored the international community’s lack of "swift action" to protect civilians "by all necessary means," in a statement on Facebook.

The SNC, the most representative group opposed to Assad, reaffirmed the "people’s determination to fight for their freedom and dignity," stressing they "will not give up their revolution, whatever the sacrifices."

The head of the now defunct Arab League observer mission to Syria, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said there had been a marked upsurge in violence since last Tuesday. Nearly 400 people have been killed since.

On Monday alone, almost 100 people, including 55 civilians, were killed during a regime assault on the city of Homs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The unrest, which also saw 25 soldiers killed, marked one of the bloodiest days of a revolt that erupted in March, inspired by a wave of Arab uprisings that last year overthrew authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

On Tuesday, at least 22 people were killed, all but one of them civilians, the Observatory said. Seven civilians and a soldier were killed in Idlib province in the northwest and 14 civilians were killed in Homs.

"The regime is using disproportionate force in several regions of Syria and the firepower being deployed is the most intense since the start of the Syrian resvoltion," said the Britain-based watchdog’s chairman Rami Abdel Rahman.

In the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the streets of Irbin were "littered with corpses" because nobody dared remove them in the face of intense fire from advancing troops, the Observatory said.

Regime forces began blowing up houses in the protest hub of Rankus, north of Damascus, said an activist, who urged the world to help civilians besieged in the town for a week.

"The main road to Rankus is completely cut off, as well as communications, water and electricity, and there is no milk for babies. Help them. Send them food. They are dying," said Abu Omar, an activist spokesman for the town.

Amid the escalating violence, which prompted the Arab League to suspend its observer mission, Ban called for unity at the Security Council, which was to meet from 2000 GMT.

The Council, he said, must be "united this time, speak and act in a coherent manner, reflecting the wishes of the international community and reflecting the urgent wishes and aspirations of the Syrian people, who have been yearning for freedom."

Clinton’s office announced she was heading to New York to push for a UN resolution on Syria.

"The Security Council must act and make clear to the Syrian regime that the world community views its actions as a threat to peace and security," she said in a statement.

Syria’s foreign ministry fired back, saying "the aggressive American and Western statements against Syria are escalating in a scandalous manner," and again blaming the recent violence on "armed terrorist groups."

Russia and China -- which have accused Western nations of misusing a UN mandate in their intervention to bring down Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi -- vetoed a Western-backed draft resolution on Syria in October.

On Monday, Gatilov said Moscow would not back the latest draft, before adding on Tuesday that any effort to push it through was "the path towards civil war" in Syria.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was also due to join the Security Council session, said opponents of the draft needed to examine their consciences.

"Countries that vote against or stand out against this resolution do have to ask themselves the question -- are they behaving in a way which actually perpetuates bloodshed and violence and costs human lives," Hague told Sky News.