DAMASCUS , (AFP) — Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution threatening action against Syria’s deadly crackdown on protests, dealing a blow to US and European efforts to isolate President Bashar al-Assad regime.
Amid new deaths in Syria and new threats of individual sanctions, the veto sparked the outrage of European nations, which proposed the resolution, and the United States, which said the council had “utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge.”
Nine countries voted late Tuesday for the text which had called for “targeted measures” if Assad pursues his clampdown, which the UN says has left at least 2,700 dead.
Russia and China voted against, killing the resolution because of their veto power as permanent council members. South Africa, India, Brazil and Lebanon abstained, reaffirming a divide in the 15-member body since NATO launched air strikes in Libya using UN resolutions to justify the action.
Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said the European resolution was “based on a philosophy of confrontation.” The threat of action was “unacceptable,” he added.
Many opponents raised the air strikes in Libya and fears that it could be renewed in Syria to justify their votes.
China said it exercised its veto because the resolution would have “blindly” pressured the Arab nation and not helped.
“Some countries submitted a draft resolution to blindly impose pressure and even threatened sanctions against Syria. This would not help to ease the situation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.
US ambassador Susan Rice called the comments a “cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.”
Rice called on the council to impose “tough, targeted sanctions” and an arms embargo against Syria.
“The United States is outraged that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security,” she said.
The US ambassador later led her delegation out of the council chamber after Syria’s ambassador Bashar Jaafari accused the United States of “genocide” in a long attack on the western countries.
Russia has proposed an alternative resolution, which condemns the opposition violence as well as that of the government and calls for dialogue to end the crisis. The European nations vowed however that it would not come to a vote.
The double veto by Russia and China was a “vote against the Arab Spring,” France’s UN envoy Gerard Araud said outside the council chamber.
Western governments and human rights watchdogs have expressed mounting criticism of the council’s failure to adopt any resolution on Syria, which has since mid-March been shaken by an unprecedented protest movement Assad has sought to crush using deadly force.
In the latest violence, at least 11 people were shot dead by security forces on Tuesday, including six in the central province of Homs and two in the northwest of the country, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The other three were killed in various centers of protest across the country, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Canada announced new sanctions against Syrian oil exports and investment in its oil fields. The government also added 27 people said to be close to Assad and 12 entities linked to the government to a list of people or companies facing a travel ban and assets freeze.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for the proposed UN resolution and said he would soon announce sanctions against neighboring Syria.
Amnesty International meanwhile highlighted cases where Syrian activists had been attacked in other countries and called for stronger action against “Syrian embassies” behind such intimidation.
The rights watchdog said it had documented cases of attacks and intimidation against 30 Syrian activists in Britain, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United States.
France confirmed it had launched an investigation after thugs attacked a protest in Paris.
A foreign ministry spokesman said arrests had been made and extra police protection assigned to Syrian opposition protests after the August 26 attack.
In Sweden, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warned: “If there are diplomats who engage in activities in this country that are not compatible with their diplomatic status they are not welcome in Sweden.”