- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that called on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime to respect human rights and stop using violence against civilians taking part in a months-long bid to oust the government.

The 15-member council voted 9-2 on the resolution. Four non-permanent members — India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon — abstained.

European officials watered down the text of the resolution several times to try to win the support of Russia and China, which are veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council. The other three members with veto powers are the U.S., France and Britain.

A Western diplomat in New York, who spoke to The Washington Times on background, said the veto by Russia and China was “disappointing” because their concerns had been taken into consideration as the text of the resolution was amended.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., expressed outrage at the council’s failure to pass the resolution.

“This is a sad day. Most especially for the people of Syria, but also for the U.N. Security Council,” she wrote in a Twitter post.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his country did not support Mr. Assad’s regime or the violence but opposed the resolution because it was “based on a philosophy of confrontation,” contained “an ultimatum of sanctions” and was against a peaceful settlement of a crisis, the Associated Press reported.

China’s Ambassador Li Baodong said his country opposed the resolution because “sanctions, or threat of sanctions, do not help the situation in Syria but rather complicates the situation.”

Meanwhile, an Iranian media report claimed that Mr. Assad had threatened to “set fire” to the Middle East in the event of Western military invention, but a senior Turkish official disputed the account.

Syria’s 6-month-old uprising has turned increasingly bloody, with regime forces targeting locales where newly formed groups of army defectors have taken refuge.

A Western diplomat who spoke on background to reporters in Washington said anti-regime protests in Syria had not yet reached a “tipping point” but suggested that international pressure could change things.

An earlier draft had recommended “targeted measures” against the Syrian regime.

Russia wanted language explicitly blocking foreign powers from getting involved in Syria’s internal affairs.

The final text of the resolution, provided to The Times before the vote, did not include some of the language to which Russia had objected. The text:

• Reaffirmed “strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Syria.”

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