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Russia, China veto UN resolution on Syria crackdown

Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution, drawn up by European nations, threatening action if Syria’s leader does not end a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Nine countries voted for the text drawn up by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal. Russia and China voted against, killing the resolution because of their veto power as permanent members of the council.

South Africa, India, Brazil and Lebanon abstained, following weeks of efforts by the western powers to get them behind the campaign to condemn President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown, which the UN says has left at least 2,700 dead.

The veto showed “disdain for the legitimate interests that have been fought for in Syria” by protesters since March, said France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud.

“All efforts have been made to put together a unanimous response,” said the envoy in his condemnation of the veto. “Numerous concessions” had been made to Russia, China and the abstaining countries, he added.

Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said the European resolution was “based on a philosophy of confrontation.” The threat of sanctions, which the resolution called “targeted measures,” was “unacceptable,” he added.

Churkin said more emphasis must be put on the opposition violence. “The reason for the drama is not only in the hard actions of the authorities,” he insisted.

Churkin launched a strong attack on the NATO campaign in Libya, raising new fears that it could be repeated in Syria, despite several denials by Western governments that military action was envisaged.

“It is a conflict of political approaches,” said Churkin, who vaunted a rival Russian text which calls for dialogue but makes no mention of potential action.

China’s ambassador Li Baodong spoke in favour of the Russian draft and said the Syria crisis must be ended through dialogue.

It is the first Russian-China veto since the pair blocked UN sanctions against Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in July 2008.

The 15 Security Council members have been negotiating various versions of a resolution for more than three months. European demands for immediate sanctions against Assad and his entourage had already been dropped in a bid to get a text passed.

So far the council has only agreed two statements on the violence.