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Sarkozy slams Russia, China for Syria UN veto

Reuters/Allison Joyce

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has slammed Russia and China for vetoing a second resolution on Syria and the UN Security Council. France and its allies hope to set up a coalition to push President Bashar al-Assad to quit, he said.

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States that prevent the Security Council condemning repression of opposition protests “encourage the Syrian regime to persevere in its cruel and pointless policy”,said Sarkozy in a statement issued through his office on Saturday night.

But, he added, “France has not given up … It will consult its Arab and European partners about the establishment of a Friends of the Syrian People group whose aim will be to give the international community’s support to putting into practise the Arab League’s initiative”.

The Arab League plan, adopted on 22 January, would “give the Syrian people their say by holding elections and allow President Bashar al-Assad to bow out while keeping state structures intact so that the country does not fall prey to civil war”, Sarkozy said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said Moscow and Beijing "bear a heavy responsibility in the eyes of the world and the Syrian people" in vetoing the UN resolution, a move that he said "paralyses the international community".

Russia had called for the vote to be put off a week.

"The authors of the draft Syria resolution, unfortunately, did not want to undertake an extra effort and come to a consensus," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov stated on Twitter.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief Mikhail Fradkov are to visit Damasus on Tuesday.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali called Sunday on all countries to cut off diplomatic relations with Syria.

"We have to expel Syrian ambassadors from Arab and other countries," Jebali said during a panel discussion on the Middle East at a security conference in the southern German city of Munich.

The UN Security Council vote came after reports of a massacre in the opposition stronghold of Homs. Dissidents claim that about 260 civilians were killed by shelling.

The US and its allies also condemned Russia and China as did the Syrian opposition:

  • Russia and China "remain steadfast in their willingness to sell out the Syrian people and shield a craven tyrant," US ambassador Susan Rice told the council;
  • After the vote British Foreign Minister William Hague said they had "sided with the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their own national interests";
  • Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi termed the double veto "very bad news";
  • The opposition Syrian National Council “holds both governments accountable for the escalation of killings and genocide, and considers this irresponsible step a licence for the Syrian regime to kill without being held accountable".

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