* Formin Juppe says international community paralysed after
* Calls attacks in Homs savagery, crimes against humanity
* Scuffles between pro/anti Assad supporters in Paris
By John Irish
PARIS, Feb 4 President Nicolas Sarkozy
said on Saturday France was consulting with Arab and European
countries to create a contact group on Syria to find a solution
to its crisis after Russia and China vetoed a resolution at the
U.N. Security Council.
France and Britain had crafted the resolution, which
condemned the Syrian government's violent crackdown on 11 months
of protests and backed an Arab League peace plan that would see
President Bashar al-Assad give up power.
Sarkozy, speaking after his Foreign Minister Alain Juppe
said the twin veto had paralysed the international community,
accused Moscow and Beijing of "encouraging the (Syrian) regime
to continue with its cruel policies without an end.
"France is not giving up," Sarkozy said in a statement,
saying France was in touch with Arab and European partners to
create a "Friends of the Syrian People Group" that would marshal
international support to implement the Arab League plan.
Sarkozy did not give further details on the initiative.
Last year he set up a Libya contact group to create a
political roadmap backed by international players as part of
efforts to oust Muammar Gaddafi, although Western powers have
ruled out a Libya-style military intervention in Syria.
Russia and China joined forces in a double veto to quash the
resolution despite the other 13 council members voting in favour
of the measure, which would have said that the council "fully
supports" the Arab League plan.
Juppe, who had earlier warned the veto-wielding countries,
said everything had been done to accommodate them.
"This (veto) paralyses the international community," Juppe
said on France 2 television. "We could not accept equating a
regime which is capable of crimes against humanity with
opponents who are often fighting unarmed."
The diplomatic manoeuvres were lent urgency by reports from
Syrian activists that more than 200 people had been killed in
shelling by government forces in the restive city of Homs.
The resolution had been watered down to try to win Moscow's
backing by excluding any mention of an arms embargo, sanctions,
the departure of Assad or possible military action.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had given some hope
saying the draft resolution was "not hopeless," but warned of a
"scandal" if it was voted in its current version.
"Instead of stopping its policy of repression, the Syrian
authorities have jumped a new hurdle in its savagery: the
massacre in Homs is a crime against humanity and those
responsible will have to answer for it," Juppe said.
Syria denied shelling the area and said Internet video of
corpses was staged. It is not possible to verify activist or
state media reports as Syria restricts independent media access.
Russia had said its main objection was that the draft
resolution set down measures to be taken against Assad's
government, but not against armed groups who it said were
manipulating peaceful protesters.
France has consistently said it could not accept a
resolution that blamed equally both sides for the violence,
which French officials estimate has left 6,000 people dead.
France's U.N. ambassador said the Syrian people would not be
left to a tragic fate and that Paris would work with the
European Union to impose new sanctions on Damascus.
"The father killed en masse, the son is doing the same,"
Gerard Araud said, recalling a 1982 massacre in the Syrian city
of Hama carried out by the forces of Assad's father Hafez
al-Assad, then president, to crush an Islamist uprising.
"Horror is hereditary in Damascus."
Minor scuffles broke out earlier in the day at the Russian
embassy in the French capital during a pro-Assad demonstration.
About 20 supporters of the Syrian president were confronted
by about 50 people against the government, according to a
Reuters witness. Nobody was injured, but the police stepped in
to make some arrests.