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Syria debate revived

world Updated: Aug 02, 2011 08:57 IST
AFP
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The UN Security Council on Monday held emergency talks on the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on protests with Western powers again demanding a condemnation of the violence.

A top UN official told the closed meeting that on top of the 140 people reported killed in a military offensive on Sunday, 3,000 people have gone missing and 12,000 been taken prisoner since the protests against President Bashar al-Assad started in March, diplomats said.

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal hope to revive a formal resolution condemning Assad's crackdown which could be discussed on Tuesday. Diplomats said however that it was more likely that Security Council would agree a statement, with no warning of UN action.

Russia and China, two of the five permanent council members with veto powers, had threatened to block past attempts to pass a resolution. Brazil, India and South Africa had also spoken out against a resolution or statement.

But diplomats said all countries expressed concern about the intensifying crackdown and there was now wider acceptance that the Security Council must act.

US ambassador Susan Rice said an "alarming" briefing on events in Syria had been given by UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco.

"There was pretty widespread expression of concern, or expression of condemnation," she told reporters after the meeting.

A western diplomat said that European nations had updated their draft resolution from two months ago which calls for an end to the violence, UN access to the protest cities and a human rights investigation into the violence.

"The very silence of the Security Council has encouraged the repression to go on," said another western diplomat of the negotiations which have dragged on since then.

The opponents of past action signaled they are now ready to speak out against Assad.

Hardeep Singh Puri, India's ambassador and president of the Security Council for August, said "I detected a certain convergence of thinking, concern about the escalating violence."

"Members of the council were concerned about the escalating violence," he said adding that there was now "urgency" to act.

Russia's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, who had threatened to veto the past draft resolution, said "we have to get rid of the old confrontational thinking."

Churkin called the resolution proposal "somewhat excessive" but that a council statement could be agreed upon.

"If there is a possibility to have a text or reaction ... we would not be against," the Russian envoy told reporters.

Russia, China and other opponents of a Syria resolution have been infuriated that Nato has used UN resolutions on Libya to justify air strikes on Muammar Gaddafi's regime. They had said that even a statement on Syria could open up the possibility of a new military campaign.

This is strongly denied by the Western powers, but Churkin commented: "We are still under the shadow of events in Libya" which he added would "continue to cast a shadow" on Security Council debate.

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