GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran has objected to the U.N. Human Rights Council holding an emergency debate on the violence and repression in its ally Syria, as requested by Arab and Western states, the Geneva forum’s president said on Monday.
Qatar marked the opening of the Council’s annual four-week session by asking for an urgent debate on Syria on Tuesday, a request that was backed by most Arab League members, as well as the European Union (EU) and the United States.
A resolution passed by the main U.N. human rights forum would add to the moral pressure on Syria but would have no practical impact on the situation there. The U.N. Security Council reached deadlock on Syria when Russia and China vetoed a resolution condemning the government’s violent crackdown.
Arab and Western states are looking for fresh condemnation of the Syrian forces’ violent suppression of protests that began nearly a year ago.
Iran, which is an observer but not a member of the 47-member Council, has lodged a “formal objection” to an emergency debate on Syria, the Council’s current president, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, told the meeting.
Russia’s envoy also took the floor, saying the situation in Syria had not changed since the Council held an emergency session on the issue in early December - its third. He requested more time before a decision was taken later on Monday.
“We hope that this urgent debate can be convened tomorrow so that we also transmit a strong and unanimous message from the international community condemning the violence and repression by force of dissent and of the civilian population in general,” Dupuy Lasserre said.
“The humanitarian situation is critical and we hope for a positive response from the (Syrian) authorities so that all the people affected can be helped.”
Syrian artillery pummeled rebel-held areas of Homs again on Monday, hours before the government was expected to announce that a referendum - decried as a sham by the opposition and the West - had approved a new constitution proposed by President Bashar al-Assad.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi is due to address the Geneva body later on Monday, during a high-level session which will draw some 90 ministers this week.
Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, departed from her prepared remarks at the start of the session to support the Arab-Western move: “I welcome the intention to hold an urgent debate on the human rights situation in Syria.”.
Independent rights investigators, in a U.N. report issued last week, said Syrian forces had shot dead unarmed women and children, shelled residential areas and tortured wounded protesters in hospital under orders from the “highest level” of army and government officials.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tim Pearce