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Middle East
France criticises UN over Syria violence
Foreign minister calls Security Council failure to condemn crackdown a "scandal", while activists report fresh violence.
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2011 15:50
Friday's protests were dedicated to calling for foreign intervention for the first time since the uprising began [AFP]

Alain Juppe, France's foreign minister, has stepped up pressure on veto-wielding Russia to support a UN Security Council resolution against the Syrian government's violent crackdown on protests.

Speaking during a visit to Australia on Sunday, Juppe said the UN's failure to condemn the actions of Syrian security forces against anti-government protesters was a "scandal". 

He said that France and Russia remained divided over Syria after talks between French and other foreign ministers in Moscow last week.

Juppe said it was too late for political reforms in Syria, as Russia has called for, because the UN estimated that more than 2,200 people had been killed by security forces.

Syrian activists put the death toll closer to 3,000.

"We think the regime has lost its legitimacy, that it's too late to implement a programme of reform," Juppe told reporters.

"Now we should adopt in New York the resolution condemning the violence and supporting the dialogue with the opposition," he said.

"It's a scandal not to have a clearer position of the UN on such a terrible crisis".

Fresh violence reported

Meanwhile, activists said a woman was killed near the Iraqi border.

"A 40-year-old woman was killed at noon on Sunday by a stray bullet as security forces were tracking wanted people in the town of Albu Kamal," the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited an activist in Deir al-Zor province as saying.

The Observatory also said a 17-year-old boy died of wounds sustained a day earlier when security forces fired at a funeral for Ghayath Matar, an activist who reportedly died from torture in prison.

Witnesses and activists also said Syrian forces have stepped up raids across the country to arrest activists.

In the town of Hirak in Deraa province, Ahmad al-Sayyed, a resident, told Reuters that troops had detained at least 250 people in the villages of Jeeza, 40 in Museifra, 50 in Busra al-Harir and 30 in Naimeh in the last 48 hours.

"They shoot in the air before they begin raids. They then drag young men and use electric sticks to beat them up and haul them away to detention centres," he said.

'Agreement on reforms'

The developments come after Nabil el-Araby, the head of the Arab League, said he had reached an agreement on reforms with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, during talks in Damascus on Saturday.

They also followed Friday protests which activists dedicated to calling for international protection from security forces for the first time since the uprising began in March.

Russia, a UN member with veto power, has resisted international attempts to condemn the violence and refused to back Western calls for Assad to quit. 

Syrian opposition representatives visited Moscow on Friday to press the Russian government to do more to support Syrian protesters.

"The incomprehensible and contradictory position of the Russian leadership on what is happening in Syria could hurt Russia's image in the future," Ammar al-Qurabi, head of the Syrian opposition delegation, told a news conference.

"We do not want Russia to repeat the mistake it made in Libya. It recognised the transitional council too late. The same thing happened with Iraq, and we don't want Russia to repeat it for the third time."

Russia's interests 

Al-Qurabi's comments made clear that Russia, a close ally of Syria's ruling Baath party with a naval maintenance facility in the country and a major arms contracts with the government, risks losing influence and potentially lucrative business deals in Syria if Assad is toppled.

Russia did not use its veto to block a UN Security Council resolution allowing NATO to intervene in Libya, but accused the West of going beyond its mandate, and said it wanted to prevent a similar situation happening in Syria.

On August 24, European nations and the US circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution seeking an arms embargo and other sanctions aimed at stopping the Syrian government's crackdown.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria
Russia proposed a rival resolution that did not call for sanctions or any punitive measures. It called instead for the Syrian authorities to speed up promised reforms and for the opposition to engage in dialogue with the government.

In an interview with Euronews television, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would continue to press Western nations to tone down any condemnation of Damascus.

"We are ready to support different approaches, but they must not be based on one-sided condemnations of the actions of the government and President Assad," Medvedev said.

"They must send a firm signal to all conflicting sides that they need to sit down at the negotiations table, they need to agree and stop the bloodshed."

The Syrian authorities blame what they describe as terrorists for the bloodshed and say hundreds of members of the security forces are among the dead. Opposition activists also acknowledge the deaths of of about 500 security personnel.

Source:
Agencies
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