Syria has warned the United Nations that a European draft resolution condemning the country for its deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters would only embolden "extremists and terrorists".
"It is important that the Security Council should not intervene in the internal affairs of Syria, which is a founding member of the United Nations," Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem told the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in a letter obtained by Reuters news agency on Friday.
"We are quite certain that any resolution that is adopted by that body under any heading will only exacerbate the situation and send a message to those extremists and terrorists to the effect that the deliberate destruction that they are wreaking has the support of the Security Council," he said.
The Syrian response came as UN Security Council diplomats met in New York in another attempt to break their deadlock on a draft resolution that would not impose sanctions on Syria but would condemn it for the crackdown and suggest Syrian security forces might be guilty of crimes against humanity.
Al-Moualem offered no apology for the crackdown, which rights groups say has killed over 1,100 civilians since March. He said Damascus had no choice but to press ahead to ensure "the security of the nation and the population".
"We hope that the United Nations and its member states will assist Syria in confronting the challenges of extremism and terrorism and will not hastily adopt a position that will provide a cloak for the murderous, destructive gangs," he said in the letter.
He said that diplomatic moves to condemn Syria "constitute flagrant intervention in the internal affairs of Syria and an attempt to destabilise it and control the current and future decisions and destinies of its people".
Despite Syria's protestations, the White House significantly toughened its stance on Friday, calling for an "immediate end to brutality and violence".
The White House spokesman Jay Carney, in a statement, said President Bashar al-Assad was leading his nation on a "dangerous path".
The renewed criticism came as Syrian activists said that 23 people were killed after troops shelled the northwestern town of Maarat al-Numan on Friday.
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Maarat al-Numan is located 40km from Jisr al-Shughur, where the government has been conducting military operations it said were aimed at restoring security in the town, where authorities said 120 security personnel were killed by "armed groups'' last week.
Anti-government protests were held in many cities across the country after Friday prayers.
Security forces shot dead two protesters when they fired at a rally in the Qaboun district of Damascus, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The group said nine protesters were also killed in the Mediterranean port city of Latakia.
A resident in Deraa, in the south of the country, told Al Jazeera that two protesters had been killed there.
Security forces also shot dead two civilians in a village in the southern Hauran Plain, residents said.
More than 2,800 Syrians have fled into neighbouring Turkey to escape the unrest in Jisr al-Shughur and other towns, according to the UN and Turkish officials.
Lebanon, Syria's neighbour to the west, has already absorbed about 5,000 refugees, though the UN says it is a "fluid population" and some of the refugees have already returned home.
A UN spokesperson said that Ban Ki-moon had been trying to call the Syrian president all week but was told that he was "not available."
Robert Ford, the US ambassador in the Syrian capital, Damascus, has also seen his requests for meetings with Syrian government officials repeatedly denied.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies