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Russia, China Veto Syria Resolution From UN Security Council

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 20, 2012


By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, July 19 (Reuters) – Russia and China vetoed  a U.N. Security Council resolution on Thursday that threatened  Syrian authorities with sanctions if they did not halt violence  against an uprising, thwarting Western hopes for tough action as  the crisis in Syria escalates.

It was the third time that Russia, a key ally of the Syrian  government, and China have used their veto power to block U.N.  Security Council resolutions designed to put pressure on Syrian  President Bashar al-Assad and halt the violence in a 16-month  conflict that has killed thousands of people.

As efforts to forge a diplomatic solution appeared to  collapse, Syrian rebels clashed with forces loyal to Assad in  Damascus, a day after the killing of three close allies of the  president led to fresh warnings that the situation was spinning  out of control.

The vetoed resolution, which would have extended a U.N.  observer mission in Syria for 45 days, received 11 votes in  favor, while South Africa and Pakistan abstained.

International mediator Kofi Annan, who had sought a tough  resolution to save his disintegrating peace plan, voiced  disappointment, saying the council had failed “to take the  strong and concerted action he had urged and hoped for.”

Russia, which had proposed its own alternative resolution  without the sanctions threat, said it did not now plan to bring  that measure to a vote, leaving the future of the monitoring  mission hanging in the balance less than two days before its  U.N. mandate expires.

Britain proposed a resolution to extend the monitoring  mission for 30 days and hoped to put it to a vote on Thursday,  diplomats said, but it remained unclear how much backing this  new measure might win.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice,  described the twin vetoes as “dangerous and deplorable” and said  the Security Council had “failed utterly.”

“The United States has not, and will not, pin its policy on  an unarmed observer mission that is deployed in the midst of  such widespread violence and that cannot even count on the most  minimal support of this Security Council,” Rice said.

“Instead, we will intensify our work with a diverse range of  partners outside the Security Council to bring pressure to bear  on the Assad regime and to deliver assistance to those in need.”

The United States has been instrumental in forming the   “Friends of Syria” group, which includes a wide range of Western  and Arab countries, that has sought to increase pressure on  Damascus and encourage more unity among Syria’s fractured  opposition.

Rice noted that the escalating violence was sharpening  concerns over Syria’s undeclared stockpile of chemical weapons,  believed to be the largest of its kind in the Middle East.

“As the situation deteriorates, the potential that this  regime could consider using chemical weapons against its own  people should be a concern for us all,” she said.

The British and French U.N. envoys also expressed their  disgust over Russia and China’s vetoes.

“The effect of their actions is to protect a brutal regime.  They have chosen to put their national interests ahead of the  lives of millions of Syrians,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall  Grant told the council.

MANDATE ALMOST UP

The 15-member council still has time to negotiate another  resolution on the fate of the unarmed U.N. observer mission  before its initial 90-day mandate expires at midnight on Friday  (0400 GMT Saturday).

Russia,  China, Pakistan and South Africa have called for a  brief technical resolution that would simply roll-over the  mission for a short period of time.

“It would be useful to preserve the useful potential of the  monitoring mission, even if it is limited in its time,” Russia’s  U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said.

Lyall Grant said Britain’s new resolution would only  consider extending the mission beyond an additional 30 days if  the Syrian authorities had stopped using heavy weapons and had  withdrawn troops from towns and cities – and if the level of  violence had decreased enough to allow the mission to work.

“We hope it may be possible to vote that later in the day,  he told reporters.

Since the Security Council approved the initial deployment  of the mission, the United States has indicated that Washington  is unlikely to support a renewal of their mandate if the Syrian  government had not implemented Annan’s six-point peace plan.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, briefing reporters aboard  Air Force One as President Barack Obama headed for Florida, said  the United States does not support extending the monitor mission  after the failed resolution.

But Rice, the U.N. ambassador, indicated that Washington  might consider a “final brief extension.”

Britain, France, Germany and the United States had wanted  the Security Council resolution be placed under Chapter 7 of the  U.N. Charter, which allows the council to authorize actions  ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military  intervention.

Western council members have said they are talking about a  threat of sanctions on Syria, not military intervention. Their  vetoed resolution had contained a specific threat of sanctions  if Syrian authorities did not stop using heavy weapons and  withdraw troops from towns and cities within 10 days.

Russia made clear days before the vote it would block any  such move, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov  describing the threat of sanctions as  “blackmail.”

The Security Council initially approved the deployment of  the observer mission, known as UNSMIS, to monitor a failed April  12 ceasefire. UNSMIS suspended most of its monitoring activity  on June 16 due to increased risk from rising violence.     (Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington and  Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Andrew Quinn; Editing by  David Brunnstrom)

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