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Tension Grows In UN Over Syrian Unrest

  • RFE/RL

Bashar Jaafari, Syrian ambassador to the UN, said Western countries want to return to colonialism

Bashar Jaafari, Syrian ambassador to the UN, said Western countries want to return to colonialism

The UN Security Council met on January 31 to listen to the Arab League report on the situation in Syria, where a 10-month crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad has left some 5,400 people dead, according to UN figures.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby urged the council to take "rapid and decisive action" to stop the bloodshed and "not let the Syrian people down in their plight."

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said Syria's "killing machine is still at work." Sheikh Hamad said he was "not calling for a military intervention" but said there was a need for "concrete economic pressure so that the Syrian regime might realize that it is imperative to meet the demands of its people."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a resolution put to the UN Security Council for action against Syria did not support military intervention in Syria, which Russia and China, both permanent members of the council, have repeatedly said they would oppose.

Clinton said, "We will have a concerted effort over the next days to reach agreement in the Security Council to put forth a resolution that sends a message to President Assad and his regime."

Clinton praised the role of the Arab League in trying to defuse the tensions in Syria and emphasized U.S. support for the Arab League to play "an essential leadership role" in normalizing the situation in Syria.

Responding to concerns from some council members about a repeat of Libya, where several European nations along with others supported antigovernment forces militarily, Clinton said, "we want to underscore that there is no intention to seek any authority or to pursue any kind of military intervention."

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said his country prefers to focus on bringing the opposing Syrian sides to the negotiating table, rather than force the Syrian government into concessions by placing sanction on Assad's regime.

Churkin said the "important thing which is in common between us and the Arab the belief that there must be political dialogue."

Churkin said the need for political dialogue "is the essence of our invitation for the [Syrian] government and various groups to come to Moscow to discuss the entire agenda without preconditions in preparation for a political process under the aegis of the Arab League."

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari said his government was not responsible for the conflict. Jaafari blamed the U.S. and its European allies saying they were motivated by a desire for "the return of colonialism and hegemony."

Western diplomats hope to vote on the resolution this week.

As the Security Council debated what actions, if any, to take on Syria, fighting raged on the outskirts of Damascus as government forces tried to crush growing resistance. Government forces reportedly took back eastern suburbs captured by army defectors last week.

Fighting was also reported in Homs, a hotbed of unrest for months.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 100 people have been killed since January 30 in the Syrian government's drive to reclaim areas occupied by armed opposition groups.

with agency reports

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