France, US slam opponents of Syria action
Western nations on Wednesday condemned opponents of UN action against Syria with France accusing many Security Council powers of "indifference" toward killings being carried out by government forces.
A Security Council debate on protecting civilians reopened diplomatic wounds over the NATO airstrikes in Libya as well as the failure to agree to a stance on President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown in Syria.
France's UN envoy Gerard Araud said the 15-member body had "abdicated its responsibilities" when China and Russia blocked a resolution condemning the violence in Syria. The UN says more than 3,500 people have now been killed there.
"Some vetoed even limited action by the Security Council. Others chose abstention, that is indifference," Araud told the meeting.
"It is a serious failure of the Security Council, in humanitarian or political terms."
Russia and China used their right of veto as permanent members to veto the October 4 resolution. Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon abstained.
"Now the Syrian government continues to fire on its population, to siege, carry out thousands of arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances and torture," Araud said.
US ambassador Susan Rice called Syria the most "immediate" civilian challenge facing the council. Despite the veto, "the crisis in Syria will stay before the Security Council and we will not rest until this council rises to meets its responsibilities," she said.
France, Britain and Germany have said they will look for new ways to get the Security Council to at least condemn the violence in a resolution.
Their rejected resolution only spoke of possible measures against Assad. But Russia and China refused to accept any hint of sanctions which they said could lead to a Libya-style conflict in Syria.
The opponents of military action hit back at the West in their speeches to the meeting chaired by Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva. Many raised the air strikes in Libya, which NATO has insisted were within UN resolutions passed this year.
"Attempts to manipulate council mandates are inadmissible even when proclaiming the noblest cause in doing so," said Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin.
He said the breaches of UN resolutions alleged by his country and its allies "undermine the potential for joint actions by the international community in similar situations."
"We find several member states all too willing to expend considerable resources for regime change in the name of protection of civilians," said India's UN ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri.
The Security Council should not complicate conflicts in countries such as Syria "by threats of sanctions, regime change etc", he added.
China's envoy Li Baodong said there should be "no political motives involved" in operations to protect civilians.
© 2011 AFP