- - Thursday, July 19, 2012

UNITED NATIONS — Russia and China Thursday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have given the United Nations an option to use force to impose sanctions on the Syrian regime of Basahar al-Assad, a day after rebels killed several of his top aides in a high-level security meeting in Damascus.

U.S. diplomats warned that the veto will essentially end any immediate role for the United Nations in Syria and could breed new life into the embattled Syrian government.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney called the vetoes “highly regrettable,” adding that it is a “mistake to prop up that regime.”

The resolution, sponsored by France and Britain, won 11 votes in the 15-member Security Council, despite the Russian and Chinese vetoes. Two nations abstained.

The apparent fracture in the Security Council was apparent shortly before the vote when the Russian and Chinese ambassadors huddled on the Security Council floor, pointedly avoiding their U.S., British and French counterparts nearby.

British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he was “appalled” by the double veto, while French representative Gerard Araud insisted “history will judge Russian and China to be wrong.”

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin complained “the vote never should have happened” because “it stood no chance of adoption.”

The Russian diplomat added that the United States, Britain and France are “trying to fan the flames inside the Council.”

Chinese ambassador Li Baodong also blasted Washington, London and Paris for trying to “ram” their resolution through the Council.

“They are up to their old tricks,” he claimed, referring to U.N. authorization for the NATO campaign that overthrew Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Moscow and Beijing have publicly stated that they intend to prevent such a repeat in Syria.

U.S. ambassador Susan Rice shot back calling the vetoes “a bad day in Turtle Bay,” a reference to the location of the United Nations in New York.

Ms. Rice insisted that Washington “will not be stopped” by the Russian and Chinese actions and will work “outside the U.N.” to address the crisis in Syria.

U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, who championed a failed peace initiative in Syria, would only say he “was disappointed” in the Council action.

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