EU powers ask U.N. Security Council to condemn Syria

By Louis Charbonneau

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – European nations moved on Wednesday
to have the U.N. Security Council pass a resolution condemning Syria
for its bloody crackdown against pro-democracy protesters, diplomats said.

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal circulated a draft resolution to the 15-nation council despite the risk of a veto by Russia.

The draft, obtained by Reuters, “condemns the systematic violation of human rights, including the killings, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and torture of peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and journalists by the Syrian authorities.”

The text, which says Syrian actions may amount to crimes against humanity, also demands that Damascus comply with a U.N. Human Rights Council inquiry and launch its own “credible and impartial investigation” into the violence against protesters.

Unlike resolutions passed this year on Libya, the draft does not provide for U.N. sanctions or military intervention against Syria. But it urges states not to supply arms to Damascus.

The text reached council members a day after a Syrian human rights group said security forces had killed at least 1,100 civilians in their two-month campaign to crush anti-government demonstrations.

“The situation warrants action by the Security Council,” said Portugal’s U.N. Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral.

But he cautioned it would not be easy to get a resolution on Syria through the council in the face of a potential Russian veto. “I don’t want to underestimate the complex issues involved in approving such resolution,” he told reporters.

U.N. diplomats said a vote on the resolution was unlikely before next week.

PREVENTING A VETO

If the Security Council remains silent it “would only embolden the Syrian leaders in the war they are waging on their own people,” said Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch. “A strong message from the council is long overdue, and countries opposing it would have a lot of explaining to do.”

A previous attempt to push the council into condemning the actions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s security forces failed after Russia, India and China made clear they would oppose it.

The Europeans first pushed for a statement, but envoys said a resolution would be easier to get through a divided council.

Statements require unanimous approval, while resolutions need only nine yes votes and no vetoes from the five permanent members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Resolutions, unlike statements, are legally binding.

Cabral said he was confident of getting nine votes for the resolution, but avoiding a veto could be more challenging.

The U.S. delegation has been less than enthusiastic about the European push for a resolution to condemn Syria due to concerns it could be vetoed by Russia, U.N. diplomats said.

U.S. officials have made clear they would rather have no council action than a vetoed resolution, envoys said. Washington fears such an outcome would send a signal to Assad that the international community is divided on the issue, which he could interpret as a green light to escalate his crackdown.

Last week, President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would not support a council resolution on Syria — a longtime ally of Moscow — if it were similar to a March 17 resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya.

(Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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