Western pressure on Syria grows ahead of UN debate

31.01.2012 10:21

BBC: Western countries are preparing to push for a tough resolution at a UN Security Council meeting on the crisis in Syria.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi will be asking the Council to back the League's new plan calling on President Bashar al-Assad to resign.

Western foreign ministers who back the Arab plan will try to overcome Russia's threat to veto any such resolution.

The diplomacy follows a day of particularly heavy bloodshed, with more than 100 people killed across Syria.

Activists say more than 40 civilians were among the dead in Monday's violence, but their claims cannot be independently verified as the the BBC and other international media are severely restricted inside Syria.

The UN has conceded it cannot keep track of the overall death toll, but estimates more than 5,400 people have been killed since the unrest began last March.

A Syrian foreign ministry official said Syria would "defeat the policies of chaos", state news agency Sana said.

"We regret that those statements are still coming from countries accustomed to making the Middle East a field for their foolishness and failing experiments," the official added.

The plan proposed by the Arab League, and backed by the US, UK and France, calls for Mr Assad to hand power to a deputy who would then form a government of national unity.

Moscow said this is "not balanced" and would "leave open the possibility of intervention" in Syria's affairs.
The White House said on Monday that Mr Assad had lost control of Syria, adding "he will go".

The US called on countries to decide where they stand on what it calls the Syrian regime's brutality.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, a network of anti-government groups, said on its Facebook page Monday's death toll was 95, including 72 in the central city of Homs. In Deraa, in the south, 15 people were killed, while six deaths were reported in the Damascus suburbs.

Heavy machine-gun fire was reported in the restive Bab Amr district of Homs, while activists said at least 225 tank shells were fired at the eastern suburbs of Damascus.

Earlier, reports said the Syrian army had regained control of some Damascus suburbs recently held by rebel forces.

Qatari backing
The White House said countries weighing their options at the Security Council should take into account that Mr Assad would be ousted.

"The regime has lost control of the country and will eventually fall," said spokesman Jay Carney.

Moscow, which has maintained its ties with Damascus, has so far resisted moves for a UN resolution condemning the violence in Syria. Russia has a naval base in the country and supplies arms to Syria.

"The current Western draft... certainly cannot be supported by us," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the Interfax news agency.

France says 10 of the 15 countries on the Security Council now support the Arab League text. A minimum of nine council members must lend their backing in order for a resolution to be put to a vote.

However, Russia - as one of the five permanent council members - can veto any proposed resolution.

The BBC's Barbara Plett, at the UN, says Russia views the resolution as a first step towards regime change.

The UK has urged Moscow to reconsider its opposition.
"Russia can no longer explain blocking the UN and providing cover for the regime's brutal repression," said a spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron.

On Monday, Russia also offered to mediate talks between the Syrian government and the opposition - a suggestion the opposition rejected out of hand.

The Syrian government has rejected the Arab League plan, which would see Mr Assad's deputy forming a national unity government within two months.

The prime minister of Qatar will also be going to New York to seek support for the draft text.

Qatar heads the League's committee dealing with the Syrian crisis and has previously called for Arab countries to send troops into Syria.

On Saturday, the Arab League announced it was suspending its month-old monitoring mission in Syria because of an upsurge of violence.