Diplomatic inaction fuelling Syria crackdown - U.N.

Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:15pm GMT

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Louis Charbonneau

AMMAN/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. human rights chief blamed disagreement in the Security Council on Monday for encouraging the Syrian government to step up attacks on opposition strongholds in its campaign to crush an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year rule.

Russia and China on February 4 vetoed a European-Arab draft resolution condemning the crackdown and endorsing an Arab League plan for the Syrian leader to step aside.

"The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have emboldened the Syrian government to launch an all-out assault in an effort to crush dissent with overwhelming force," the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the U.N. General Assembly.

"I am particularly appalled by the ongoing onslaught on Homs," she said. "According to credible accounts, the Syrian army has shelled densely populated neighbourhoods of Homs in what appears to be an indiscriminate attack on civilian areas."

An Arab League proposal to boost support for the uprising and to send in foreign peacekeepers has also drawn a guarded international response even as Syrian forces bombarded rebellious districts of Homs and attacked other cities.

Mortar rounds and tank fire pounded Baba Amro district but casualties could not be tallied because communications were cut off, activist Mohammad al-Hassan told Reuters from Homs.

Activists said 23 people were killed on Sunday, adding to a toll of more than 300 since the assault on Homs, strategically located on the highway between the capital Damascus and second city Aleppo, began on February 3.

Russia, Assad's close ally and main arms supplier, said it could not support a peacekeeping mission unless both sides ceased the violence first. Some felt the moves might only fan the flames of war.   Continued...

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby (C) attends the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo February 12, 2012.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
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