By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The United States says it is “outraged” by a veto by Russia and China of a draft UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria over its crackdown on antigovernment protesters.
Nine countries backed the resolution in the 15-member council, while four more abstained — India, South Africa, Brazil, and Lebanon — during the vote late on October 4.
But the text drafted by France with the cooperation of Britain, Germany, and Portugal was defeated because of the vetoes from two five permanent members in the council — Russia and China.
The European-drafted resolution had been watered down to try to avoid the vetoes, referring to “targeted measures” instead of sanctions against Damascus if the clampdown in Syria continued.
After the vote, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, expressed Washington’s anger.
“The United States is outraged that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security,” Rice said. “Several [Security Council] members have sought for weeks to weaken and strip bare any text that would have defended the lives of innocent civilians from [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad]’s brutality.”
As Syria’s envoy to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, spoke after the vote, Rice and Britain’s UN Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, walked out of the Security Council in protest.
The UN estimates that more than 2,700 people have been killed across Syria since the crackdown began in March.
Assad’s government says it is in the process of introducing reforms and it blames the unrest on armed gangs.
‘Philosophy Of Confrontation’
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the threat of an ultimatum of sanctions against the Syrian authorities was “unacceptable.”
“Today’s refused draft was based on a very different philosophy — the philosophy of confrontation,” Churkin said. “We cannot agree with this unilateral accusatory bent against Damascus. We believe it unacceptable, the threat of an ultimatum of sanctions against the Syrian authorities. This approach is against the principle of a peaceful settlement of a crisis on the basis of a full Syrian national dialogue.”
Moscow had earlier said the draft contained no provision against outside military intervention.
China’s UN ambassador, Li Baodong, said Beijing opposed the idea of “interference in [Syria’s] internal affairs,” adding that sanction or threat of sanction “may further complicate the situation.”
Moscow and Beijing have said a resolution authorizing the use of force to protect civilians had been misused by NATO to bring down Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya.
Assad Critics ‘Not Giving Up’
U.S. Ambassador Rice denounced the suggestion that the draft resolution was a trick and called such criticism a “cheap ruse.”
“Others claim that strong Security Council action on Syria would merely be a pretext for military intervention,” Rice said. “Let there be no doubt, this is not about military intervention. This is not about Libya. That is a cheap ruse by those that would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.”
France’s UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, said the veto showed “disdain for the legitimate interests that have been fought for in Syria” since the protests in the country began.
“We do hope that al-Assad is not going to take this result as a carte blanche to escalate the violence against the demonstrators,” Araud said. “This veto is not the end of the road. We are going to remain here and we will come back to the council if we consider that there is new stage of violence, we are not giving up.”
Britain’s UN Ambassador Lyall Grant said the veto “will be a great disappointment to the people of Syria and the wider region that some members of this council could not show their support for their struggle for basic human rights.”
It was the first double veto by Russia and China since 2008, when they vetoed proposed sanctions against Zimbabwe.