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UN General Assembly Denounces Syria Crackdown

Syrian Army tanks are seen in the Al-Midan area of Damascus.
UNITED NATIONS -- The General Assembly has adopted a majority resolution condemning the Syrian government's use of "heavy weapons" and its failure to withdraw forces from civilian areas.

The resolution was adopted with 133 states in favor, 12 voting against, and 31 abstaining.

Russia, China, Belarus, Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela were among the states that voted against the resolution.

"The conflict in Syria is a test of everything this organization stands for. I do not want today's United Nations to fail that test," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ahead of the vote.

"I want us all to show the people of Syria and the world that we have learned the lessons of Srebrenica. United international pressure can make a difference. The Syrian people need action."

The resolution was watered down in the last week, with two provisions in the original draft -- a call for states to place sanctions on Syria and a demand that President Bashar al-Assad resign -- removed.

The resolution is not legally binding but puts pressure on the divided Security Council to take action on the escalating conflict.

French Ambassador and current Security Council President Gerard Araud told reporters on August 2 that the "deep divisions" in the Security Council are "irreconcilable in political terms."

After votes were cast on August 3, Araud said: "It's obvious there is a wide consensus in the international community behind the approach of saying to the government of Syria, you know, you have to cease the violence -- indiscriminate violence against the civilians, the violation of human rights, the violation of humanitarian law by when you shell civilian neighborhoods -- and you have to enter into a political dialogue."

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin condemned the resolution as "harmful," complaining that it was tantamount to a show of support for rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jafari condemned the resolution, and accused Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, two of the Arab sponsors of the resolution, of attacking Syria while they both had human rights violations in their own countries.

"What happened today is a flagrant and blatant hypocrisy by those who co-sponsored the draft resolution," Jafari said.

The Iranian Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaee also opposed the resolution.

"In [the] view of my delegation, the draft resolution is a deviation of all the efforts that are pursued at the international level for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis," he said. "This draft is also a deviation of the principles enshrined in the charter of the United Nations and international law, which prohibits interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states."

The vote follows the resignation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who said growing militarization had made his job untenable.

Ban expressed "deep regret" at the decision, and said he and the secretary-general of the Arab League were searching for a replacement.

The UN estimates that 19,000 people have died in the 17 months since the uprising began, with 1.5 million internally displaced in the country.
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