News / Middle East

    Clinton to Urge Security Council Action on Syria

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to urge the U.N. Security Council to support an Arab League peace plan for Syria, after Washington strongly condemned escalating violence by President Bashar al-Assad's government.

    Clinton will join the foreign ministers of France and Britain at Tuesday's Security Council session.  Western powers have been working on a draft resolution endorsing the Arab League plan, which calls for Assad to step aside as a way to resolve the crisis.

    Syria has rejected the proposal as a violation of its sovereignty.

    Clinton said in a statement Monday the Security Council "must act" by showing the international community views Syria's crackdown on a 10-month opposition uprising as a threat to peace and security.

    She said the United States condemns what it calls "violent and brutal" Syrian government attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in the past few days.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Russia to back the draft resolution, saying it is time for Security Council members to stop "shielding those who have blood on their hands."

    Council members Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed resolution last October that would have condemned the Syrian government's crackdown on the uprising.

    But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Moscow "cannot support" the proposed resolution because it is biased against Mr. Assad's government, a long-time Russian ally and buyer of Russian military supplies.

    In an interview with Russia's Interfax news agency, Gatilov also said the document "leaves open the possibility of intervention" in Syrian affairs, which Moscow has vowed to oppose.

    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the Moroccan-sponsored resolution backed by the West does not threaten sanctions or the use of force against the Syrian government, as some critics have alleged. A French diplomatic source told Western news agencies that at least 10 Council members support the draft.

    Russia also said Monday the Syrian government agreed to send a delegation to Moscow for proposed peace talks with the Syrian opposition.  But members of the opposition Syrian National Council quickly rejected the idea.  In a statement emailed to VOA, SNC member Ausama Monajed said the group "does not negotiate with terrorists."

    In fighting Monday, opposition activists said government troops re-took control of several Damascus suburbs and also clashed with rebels in the central province of Homs.  They said Monday's violence across Syria killed at least 28 people, mostly civilians.

    The Syrian government accuses armed terrorists of driving the anti-Assad revolt and killing 2,000 security personnel. The United Nations estimated the death toll from the unrest at 5,400 earlier this month, before it stopped updating the figure because of difficulties in obtaining information.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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