U.N. assembly adopts resolution condemning Syria

UNITED NATIONS Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:28pm EST

1 of 15. Smoke is seen rising from Bab Amro near Homs February 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Handout

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly ratcheted up the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday by overwhelmingly approving a resolution that endorses an Arab League plan calling for him to step aside.

The resolution, similar to one Russia and China vetoed in the Security Council on February 4, received 137 votes in favor, 12 against and 17 abstentions, though three countries said their votes failed to register on the electronic board.

Russia and China were among those opposing the resolution, which was drafted by Saudi Arabia and submitted by Egypt on behalf of Arab states. Unlike in the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly, but its decisions lack the legal force of council resolutions.

"Today the U.N. General Assembly sent a clear message to the people of Syria - the world is with you," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said in a statement.

"An overwhelming majority of U.N. member states have backed the plan put forward by the Arab League to end the suffering of Syrians," she said. "Bashar al-Assad has never been more isolated."

The resolution said the assembly "fully supports" the Arab League plan aimed at halting Syria's 11-month crackdown on anti-Assad demonstrators and urges U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy to Syria.

It also condemns Damascus for "widespread and systematic violations of human rights" and calls for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from towns and cities. The United Nations says more than 5,400 civilians have been killed in the uprising.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari rejected the resolution, telling the assembly it was part of a plot to overthrow Syria's government and allow the "terrorist" opposition to take over the country.

"We have deep concerns vis-a-vis the real intentions of the countries that have co-sponsored this draft, particularly that these countries are leading a political and media aggression against Syria," he said.

Those countries, Ja'afari said, are providing "all media, financial and political support to the armed terrorist groups and securing them coverage in international fora."

NEW SECURITY COUNCIL MOVE?

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the resolution "reflects the worrying trend ... to attempt to isolate the Syrian leadership, to reject any contact with it and to impose an external formula for a political settlement."

Earlier this week, Arab countries rejected proposed Russian amendments to the resolution that would have sought to blame Syria's government and opposition equally for the violence.

Western diplomats said before the vote that a large majority in favor of the resolution would increase the pressure on Assad to comply with the Arab League plan, and would highlight the isolation of Russia and China on the issue.

Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Bolivia were among other countries that voted against the resolution and whose delegates voiced support for the Syrian government.

France and other Western powers have suggested that they would like to make a third attempt to persuade Russia not to block action on Syria in the Security Council. But U.N. diplomats say there are no signs Moscow is prepared to allow the 15-nation panel to pass any condemnation of Syria.

Before their February 4 double veto, Moscow and Beijing, which oppose what they see as foreign interference in Syria, also knocked down a European-drafted resolution in October that would have condemned Damascus and threatened it with sanctions.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said Thursday's vote "sent a clear signal of the international community's condemnation of the Syrian regime's actions and intention to hold to account those responsible for the ongoing atrocities."

Egypt's deputy U.N. ambassador, Osama Abdul-Khaleq, said the resolution was a message to Damascus that it was "high time to listen to the voice of its people."

The league has called for the establishment of a joint U.N.-Arab League peacekeeping mission for Syria, but Western powers have reacted coolly to the idea and Thursday's resolution did not endorse it.

In a bitter concluding statement, Ja'afari blasted what he called the Arab League's "shameful position," which he said was aimed at "the settling of political accounts with Syria."

"Good luck to the Arab League in implementing the tasks entrusted to it by Israel," he said. "Congratulations for this new alliance between the League of Arab States and Israel and the historical enemies of Syria."

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (5)
morgal48 wrote:
Free Speech:
Ain’t it nice to say those things aloud and in an open forum? Why, you could even put your real name here (if you happen to live in a free speech kind of place)and probably not have someone show up at your door and take you away for some time alone with them that would invole battery cables and testicles.
Not that we should, but somebody needs to depose Assad. The Arab League is having difficulty dealing with a guy who looks just their leaders. Maybe the rest of the planet should leave the Syrians to their own devices. And the North Koreans. Iranians. Zimbabwians. Cambodians.
Cake or death?

Feb 16, 2012 9:51am EST  --  Report as abuse
MetalHead8 wrote:
You know, If this was terrorism like Assaad says, they why in the hell does it almost a whole year to get rid of the problem, escpessially if they know where there are (cuz there shelling them)?

Assad lies. He pissed his fellow country men off enough, so now this is Civil War….and probably wont end well… The UN needs to get involed and start dropping medical supplies in there

Feb 16, 2012 10:35am EST  --  Report as abuse
thebruce wrote:
Why is ‘Free-Speech’ always the first to comment on the syrian and iranian articles?

is anyone else asking themselves this question?

Feb 16, 2012 12:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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