Russia hits out at 'unacceptable' UN Syria resolution
Russia hit out on Tuesday at a UN resolution proposed by European nations that condemns Syria's deadly assault on anti-regime protesters, describing it as "unacceptable."
A Syrian army colonel who has fled to Turkey, meanwhile, called for a united front against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which a rights group said was even attacking its political opponents abroad.
European nations were expected to seek a vote later Tuesday on a resolution imposing "targeted measures" against Assad's regime for the crackdown that has killed 2,700 people according to UN estimates.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal had dropped the word "sanctions" from their draft text in a bid to win over members of the UN Security Council, but it was not enough to avoid opposition from veto-wielding Russia.
"The text that Western nations are planning to put up for a vote is clearly unacceptable," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax news agency.
The current proposal would impose sanctions if Assad failed to comply within 30 days with instructions to end violence and impose reforms.
"It is unacceptable because it keeps the prospect of imposing sanctions on Syria," Gatilov said, although his language carefully avoided the mention of Russia using its right to veto the resolution.
Western governments and human rights watchdogs have expressed mounting criticism of the council's failure to adopt any resolution on Syria, which has since mid-March been shaken by an unprecedented pro-democracy protest movement that the Assad regime has sought to crush using deadly force.
In the latest violence, at least nine people were killed on Tuesday, including six civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Four died in clashes near the border with Turkey between troops and deserters unwilling to shoot at protesters and the others in central Homs province, it said, adding that communist activist Mustafa Ahmad Ali, 52, was gunned down in Homs on Monday.
Another seven bodies, including those of two children, were discovered in the city of Homs, said the Observatory.
The Anatolia news agency said Syrian army colonel Riad al-Assad, who has taken refuge in Turkey after defecting in protest at the crackdown, called on Tuesday for a united front against the Damascus regime.
"Opponent forces in Syria should get united and close ranks until the regime collapses," it quoted him as saying.
Approximately 7,500 Syrians have fled the crackdown and are staying in camps in southern Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for the proposed UN resolution and said he would soon announce sanctions on the neighbouring country.
"The draft resolution before the council today is in the nature of sending a warning. We hope there will a positive outcome of this vote and that there will then be further discussions about whatever further steps need to be taken," Erdogan told a news conference during a visit to South Africa.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged Security Council members to find a "unified answer" to the crackdown in Syria, warning that inaction would weaken the UN's authority.
"We need to find a united, unified common answer to this repression in Syria which we cannot accept," Westerwelle said in The Hague after a working lunch with his Dutch counterpart Uri Rosenthal.
In a report released on Tuesday, rights watchdog Amnesty International said the Assad regime's campaign of intimidation and harassment extended even to Syrians living overseas.
It said it had documented cases of attacks and intimidation against 30 activists in eight countries: Britain, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United States.
It urged countries hosting Syrians, like France and Sweden which have become hubs of opposition activity, to "take stronger action against Syrian embassies accused of orchestrating this kind of harassment and intimidation."
France on Tuesday confirmed it had launched an investigation after thugs attacked a protest in Paris.
A foreign ministry spokesman said arrests had been made and extra police protection assigned to Syrian opposition protests after the August 26 attack.
According to the French daily Le Monde, a small group of Syrian protesters that gathers regularly in a square in central Paris has been insulted, filmed and on at least one occasion violently attacked by thugs.
In Sweden, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warned that: "If there are diplomats who engage in activities in this country that are not compatible with their diplomatic status they are not welcome in Sweden."
© 2011 AFP