Syrian president vows to keep fighting

After call for strikes, Obama sees unilateral U.S. military action as a mistake

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BEIRUT — Syria’s president defied mounting international pressure to end the year-old crackdown on an uprising against him and said Tuesday he is determined to go on fighting what he called “foreign-backed terrorism.”

After an American senator called for airstrikes on Syria, President Obama said unilateral U.S. military action against President Bashar Assad’s regime would be a mistake.

Mr. Obama said the situation in Syria is more complicated than it was in Libya, where months of NATO airstrikes helped rebels topple Moammar Gadhafi.

The United States also said it is proposing a new U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an end to violence in Syria, first by government forces and then by opposition fighters.

But Russia and China, powerful allies that have blocked a Security Council resolution against Syria, made clear they were still standing by the regime in Damascus.

“The Syrian people, who have in the past managed to crush foreign plots, … have again proven their ability to defend the nation and to build a new Syria through their determination to pursue reforms while confronting foreign-backed terrorism,” Mr. Assad said, according to state news agency SANA.

The military crackdown turned to southern Daraa province, where the uprising began a year ago. Troops shelled a village in Daraa and clashed with military defectors.

Activists said the military blasted a bridge and a tunnel near the border with Lebanon used as escape routes for the wounded and refugees fleeing central Homs province, an opposition stronghold that just endured a heavy, monthlong offensive.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, described video that has emerged of torture victims allegedly shot secretly in the Military Hospital in Homs as “truly shocking.”

The footage broadcast this week on Britain’s Channel 4 shows wounded civilian victims blindfolded and chained to their hospital beds, some of them with clear torture marks on their bodies allegedly at the hands of medical staff.

The international outcry against Syria has been growing louder by the day.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Mr. Assad, unlike his father and predecessor, will not escape punishment for the violence he has inflicted. Turkey and Syria, which share a border, were allies before the uprising began.

“I would like to remind Bashar Assad: His father was not made to account for what he did in this world, but his son will sooner or later account for what he did, for the massacre and the oppression,” Mr. Erdogan said. “This time, the blood shed in Syrian cities will not go unpunished.”

The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed since Syria’s uprising started in March 2011. Activists put the death toll at more than 8,000.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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