Russia slams 'unacceptable' UN resolution on Syria
Russia hit out on Tuesday at a UN resolution proposed by European nations that condemns Syria's deadly crackdown on anti-regime protests, describing it as "unacceptable."
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.
Western governments and human rights watchdogs have expressed mounting criticism of the council's failure to adopt any resolution on Syria since protests erupted in March drawing an iron-fisted response from President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
More than 2,700 people have died in the crackdown, according to the United Nations.
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 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.
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.
And France warned the regime in Damascus against using its agents to incite violence abroad after Syrian exiles were attacked in Paris during pro-democracy protests.
Prior to Tuesday's statement, Russia had said it would use its right as a permanent member of the Security Council to veto any resolution which talks of "targeted measures" rather than overt sanctions.
Moscow has proposed its own rival draft resolution with no threat of action. But this has not yet been formally proposed for a vote.
The current European draft "strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human right violations by the Syrian authorities" and demands an immediate end to "all violence".
The resolution would call for the "targeted measures" if the Syrian government fails to comply within 30 days.
Despite Russia's opposition to the latest draft resolution, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government would soon announce sanctions against Syria.
"We can no longer remain spectator to the developments in Syria. There are serious deaths of innocent, defenceless people. We cannot say 'this should continue'," Erdogan was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency.
The announcement came after the US Treasury Department moved to block the sale of telecommunications equipment to Syria, the latest in a series of unilateral sanctions.
On August 17, President Barack Obama signed an executive order authorising sanctions against Assad's regime because of what the White House termed a "continuing escalation of violence against the people of Syria."
The Senate meanwhile unanimously confirmed the US ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, who has won widespread praise for his outspoken highlighting of the crackdown, which has seen him physically attacked by regime supporters.
In a BBC interview Tuesday, Ford rejected claims by Damascus that Washington was leading Syria on the road to chaos, insisting it was the government's "repression" against its own people stirring up more violence.
"The United States is asking only that the Syrian government respect the basic human rights of their own people as enshrined in the United Nations universal declaration of human rights," he said.
Amnesty said it had documented cases of harassment by embassy and other officials involving more than 30 activists in eight countries -- Britain, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United States.
The London-based watchdog urged host countries to "take stronger action against Syrian embassies accused of orchestrating this kind of harassment and intimidation," and to protect the rights of Syrians abroad.
Later Tuesday, France warned Syria's regime against using its agents abroad to incite violence against opposition protesters in Paris, following an August 26 attack on activists.
"We would not tolerate a foreign state organising acts of violence or intimidation on our territory, and we have made this known in the clearest possible terms to Syria's ambassador in Paris," said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
"An inquiry is underway, and we hope that it will come quickly to an conclusion," he added.
And in a sign that the sanctions are beginning to bite, Syria revoked a week-old law banning luxury imports.
The retraction was due to the "negative impact (the law) had on the market, especially the soaring prices of several products," Trade and Economy Minister Mohammed Nidal al-Shaar said, quoted by SANA state news agency.
© 2011 AFP