France pressures UN on Syria, Russia warns of 'interference'
France stepped up pressure Tuesday on the United Nations to speak out against Syria's deadly crackdown on protests, but Russia again said it opposed "interference" in the country's internal affairs.
"The UN Security Council cannot remain silent for much longer," French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said during a joint press conference here with his Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin.
"The time has come when everyone will have to face up to their responsibilities," said Fillon.
Western governments have been circulating a draft Security Council resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown -- which has cost hundreds of lives -- but Russia has warned it would veto such a move.
Putin said Tuesday in Paris: "We believe that interference in the sovereign matters of independent states shows little promise."
He denied that Russia was keen to shield Syria from Western criticism because it had special interests in the country, where Assad's rule has been rocked by protests demanding greater freedoms and democracy since March.
"We are not in favour of providing cover for someone, we are in favour of finding effective instruments to settle problems -- together," he said.
Putin added however that "certainly pressure should be applied on the leadership of any country where there is mass unrest and especially bloodshed."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday that Moscow was ready to use its veto to block a Western-sponsored UN resolution on Syria as it could be used as cover for military action.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal have circulated a draft resolution condemning the Syrian military crackdown on the opposition.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has said if any permanent member tries to veto it then "that should be on their conscience".
More than 1,300 civilians have been killed and some 10,000 people arrested, according to Syrian rights groups, in the crackdown that has seen troops dispatched to crush revolt in cities across the Middle Eastern country.
Assad on Tuesday ordered a new general amnesty, a day after an offer of "national dialogue" to end the deadly unrest and as a huge crowd rallied in Damascus in his support.
Pro-democracy activists have however rejected Assad's overtures and vowed that the "revolution" would carry on, while the US State Department called for "action, not words."
© 2011 AFP