Canada blasts "disgraceful" U.N. conduct on Syria

OTTAWA Fri Jul 6, 2012 1:07pm EDT

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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council has behaved disgracefully over the Syria crisis and the United Nations as a whole is becoming irrelevant, Canada's foreign minister said Friday in one of the country's sharpest attacks on the world body.

Canada's Conservative government, which is often critical of the United Nations, is angry that Russia in particular has prevented the Security Council from taking tougher action to help stop spreading violence in Syria.

"Obviously the United Nations is at a turning point. The Security Council conduct on this affair has been disgraceful. It has not been a good day for the U.N.," said Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.

"The United Nations is losing its relevance because of ... the fact that Russia is enabling this regime to soldier on," he told reporters in Canada from Paris, where he was attending a meeting of western nations and Syrian opposition groups.

At that conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to make Russia and China "pay a price" for helping keep him in power.

Moscow and Beijing have vetoed U.N. resolutions designed to pressure Assad, saying they are committed to a peace plan drafted by international envoy Kofi Annan.

"We have got to call on both countries to - if they can't be part of the solution - to get out of the way," said Baird, adding that Russia was the main obstacle.

"Canada and the United States and our like-minded allies are no doubt going to be more forceful in publicly condemning Russia's policy in this regard ... they need to reflect on their role in a civilized world," he said.

Baird also condemned Syria's bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council and said the organization would suffer "irreparable damage" if Damascus succeeded.

"It is outrageous, it is a sick joke, and the fact that they could even be a candidate speaks to the huge challenges that the United Nations faces," said Baird.

Under previous Liberal governments, Canada embraced the United Nations and indeed invented the concept of international peacekeeping, which earned former Foreign Minister Lester Pearson the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957.

But the Conservatives, elected in 2006, adopted a harsh stance toward the United Nations, as well as outspoken support for Israel, which may explain why Canada lost a bid for a temporary seat on the Security Council in 2010.

Last month, a Conservative legislator called on Ottawa to review whether Canada should even stay in the United Nations.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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