October 5, 2011 / 4:04 PM / 6 years ago

France slams Russia, China after Syria veto

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe arrives to attend a commission about Libya at the National Assembly in Paris October 4, 2011.Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe criticised Russia and China on Wednesday for vetoing a United Nations resolution on Syria, saying their stance was based on "false arguments" that the resolution would have paved the way to military intervention.

He said Paris would continue to campaign on the issue within the U.N. Security Council while Turkey announced it would impose its own sanctions on Syria.

On Tuesday Russia and China vetoed a French-inspired U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria and hinting that the Syrian authorities could face U.N. sanctions if its bloody crackdown on protesters continues.

The United Nations says 2,700 civilians have been killed. Damascus blames the violence on foreign-backed armed groups which it says have killed at least 700 security personnel.

The resolution, drafted by France with the support of Britain, Germany and Portugal, received nine votes in favour and four abstentions from Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa

French diplomats had believed until the final hour that by diluting the resolution they had done enough to secure a deal after months of deadlock at U.N. headquarters.

"These votes are based on false arguments," Alain Juppe told lawmakers in the French parliament. "Nobody can say that this draft resolution would have paved the way for military intervention... nothing in this text points in that direction."

For months, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa -- the "BRICS" countries -- have criticised the United States and European council members for allegedly allowing NATO to overstep its Security Council mandate to protect civilians in Libya.

Juppe said one thing Russia and China wanted from Western countries, and which France categorically refused, was a text that condemned the Syrian authorities and rebels in equal measure.

France has stridently advocated a U.N. resolution in the hope it could help stop the bloodshed in Syria and Paris was the first major country to call for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Assad has used tanks and troops to crush an uprising which erupted in March.

Juppe said Paris planned to strengthen sanctions at European Union level and would "multiply" contacts with the Syrian opposition, saying he hoped it would also embrace the Christian minority.

"We don't exclude reviving our initiatives at the U.N. Security Council with our European partners," he added.

Members of Syria's new transitional council will be part of a wider Syrian opposition group in Paris next week that aims to lobby the French government for help.

"France has a clear political line," Juppe said. "We will not ignore what is happening for the good of freedom in Syria."

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Brian Love and Matthew Jones

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