- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2012

The Obama administration on Monday condemned Syria’s brutal crackdown on protesters and called on the U.N. Security Council to act against the Syrian regime.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she will travel Tuesday to the United Nations to attend a meeting on Syria and muster support for unified action against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the escalation of the Syrian regime’s violent and brutal attacks on its own people,” Mrs. Clinton said, adding that Syrian forces had “shelled civilian areas with mortars and tank fire and brought down whole buildings on top of their occupants.”

Meanwhile, the Syrian National Council of opposition figures rejected a Russian proposal for talks with the Assad regime in Moscow.

“The Russians can hold all the meetings they want, but without the [council] it will be meaningless,” said Murhaf Jouejati, a member of the Syrian National Council.

Syrian forces have unleashed ruthless attacks in the cities of Homs, Hama and Daraa, activists said, noting that 68 people, including eight children, had been killed during the past few days.

The U.N. has estimated that more than 5,400 people have been killed in the crackdown since March.

“The campaign of killing innocent people is ongoing,” Abu Rami, a resident of Homs, said in an Internet phone interview. “There is a genocide that is taking place.”

Syrian forces surrounded and shelled neighborhoods in Homs, killing generations of families, residents said. Regime forces also shelled residential areas in Damascus’ northern and eastern suburbs.

“We have received verified reports of families being massacred as a result of shelling in Homs, or as a result of the security forces setting fire to homes while residents were still inside Rankous,” a Damascus suburb, said Rafif Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group that organizes protests in Syria and documents human rights violations.

Security forces arrested several hundred activists in Rankous on Monday. Local sources said they fear that all detainees already have been killed, Ms. Jouejati said.

At the U.N. Security Council, Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, threatened to veto a resolution critical of the Assad regime on grounds that it would open the door to foreign military intervention in Syria.

The resolution includes a demand that Mr. Assad implement an Arab League peace plan that requires him to hand over power to his vice president and allow the creation of a unity government within two months. The Assad regime has rejected the proposal.

In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office urged Moscow to reconsider its opposition, the Associated Press reported.

“Russia can no longer explain blocking the U.N. and providing cover for the regime’s brutal repression,” a spokeswoman for Mr. Cameron said, on the customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.

“The Russians are equating the killer and the victim,” said Mr. Jouejati, the Syrian National Council member. “They want us to sit at a table and for there to be a happy outcome. But you cannot negotiate with a gun to your head.”

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