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Russia Slammed At UN For Supplying Arms To Syria

Actors wearing masks of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin perform with body bags during a demonstration outside UN headquarters on January 24.
UNITED NATIONS -- British, French, and American representatives to the UN have slammed Russia for supplying arms to Syria.

During a January 24 Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East and Palestine, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called on all countries to cease selling arms to Damascus.

She spoke without specifically targeting Russia, although she has recently expressed concern about Moscow selling bullets to the volatile country, where more than 5,000 people have been killed during the 10 months of pro-democracy protests.

"We are concerned by recent reports of shipments of arms and munitions to the Syrian government," she said. "We call on supplier countries to voluntarily halt arms transfers to the regime, and we encourage all nations to join the widening effort to stop the flow of weapons to the Assad regime."

Rice also called on the international community to stand together to end the bloodshed in Syria, and for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

She added that it was long past time for the Security Council to pass a strong resolution on Syria.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said: "it is glaringly obvious that transferring weapons into a volatile and violent situation is irresponsible and will only fuel the bloodshed," citing a media interview in which a Russian official said Moscow's arms trade with Damascus did not affect the situation there.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud also added his voice to the condemnation, saying it was "unacceptable that certain countries, including on this council, continue to provide the means of violence against the Syrian population."

'Fueling The Fire'

Russia recently produced a draft resolution which is viewed by Western members of the Security Council as being too weak.

The resolution does not call for an arms embargo or include language on sanctions, an issue the council remains divided over.

Ambassadors are holding consultations this afternoon, and Western diplomats told Reuters that they were now considering drafting a new resolution to replace Russia's which would endorse the Arab League plan on Syria.

Human Rights Watch's UN advocacy director, Philippe Bolopion, criticized Russia on January 24, describing a $500,000 arms deal signed over the weekend as "extremely disturbing."

"I would say that the role of Russia is particularly disturbing on this issue," he said. "Russia has presided over really what have been half-hearted attempts at negotiating a weak resolution over the last few weeks."

Bolopion added: "In the meantime, Russia has continued selling and delivering weapons to Syria, which is really an insult to the Syrian people who are at the receiving end of these weapons."

"It's also really a dereliction of Russia in the Security Council; they should try to prevent an escalation of the crisis and instead they are really fueling the fire by sending more weapons," he said.