Russia, China Veto UN Resolution On Syria

The U.N. Security Council failed again Saturday to take decisive action to stop the escalating violence in Syria as Russia and China vetoed a resolution backing an Arab League plan that calls for President Bashar Assad to step down. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports the veto drew intense criticism from the U.S.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

There are reports out of Syria that more than 200 people have been killed by government forces in the city of Homs. If those numbers are accurate, it would be the deadliest attack by the government on opposition groups since the uprising began 11 months ago. The White House released a sharp statement calling for an end to the relentless brutality. And at the UN, an attempt to pass a Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government was vetoed by Russia and China.

And that prompted a bitter reaction from the U.S. and others, as NPR's Michele Kelemen now reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The French ambassador calls it a sad day for the Security Council. Germany's envoy labels it a disgrace. And U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice complains that Russia and China are holding the council hostage.

SUSAN RICE: The United States is disgusted that a couple members of this council continue to prevent us from fulfilling our sole purpose here, addressing an ever deepening crisis in Syria and a growing threat to regional peace and security.

KELEMEN: She says Western diplomats went the last mile to accommodate Russia and China's concerns. The language of the resolution was watered down. Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin says his country made an honest effort to negotiate a text it could support and now is turning its attention to its own diplomat efforts. He says Russia's foreign minister will be in Damascus next week.

VITALY CHURKIN: I mean, the Security Council is not the only diplomatic tool on this planet.

KELEMEN: The Russians wanted to see the council put more pressure on armed groups fighting Assad's regime. But British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant says this was unacceptable, particularly on one of the worst days of Syria's nearly yearlong crackdown.

MARK LYALL GRANT: The Syrian regime has ferociously escalated its already brutal repression in the last 24 hours, subjecting the citizens of Homs to artillery and heavy weaponry.

KELEMEN: President Obama put out a statement today accusing Bashar al-Assad of having disdain for human life and dignity, comparing Assad to his father whose regime massacred tens of thousands of people in the Syrian city of Hama 30 years ago. President Obama says the Assad regime must come to an end. Morocco's UN ambassador says the Arab League transition plan for Assad is still on the table. But diplomats acknowledge it will be a tough sell without the Security Council's endorsement.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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