UNSC condemns attacks on embassies in Syria

German UN envoy calls on Assad to protect diplomatic personnel; comments come as Syrian envoy accuses US, France of distorting facts.

By REUTERS
July 12, 2011 21:12
3 minute read.
The United Nations Security Council [file]

UN Security Council_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

BEIRUT/NEW YORK - The UN Security Council on Tuesday condemned "in the strongest terms" attacks by demonstrators on the US and French embassies in Damascus.

Both Washington and Paris sharply denounced Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been trying for four months to stamp out a broad popular revolt with troops and tanks.

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"He has lost legitimacy by refusing to lead the transition" to democracy, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, further sharpening US rhetoric against the Syrian leader over a harsh crackdown on protesters.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had told reporters: "We have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power."

A Security Council statement read to media by Germany's UN Ambassador Peter Wittig, this month's president, called on Syrian authorities to protect diplomatic property and personnel.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon had earlier accused Russia and China of trying to block a UN resolution on Syria, saying it was "intolerable that the Security Council should stay silent on such a tragedy".

Syria's UN ambassador accused the United States and France on Tuesday of distorting and exaggerating facts about attacks by demonstrators this week on their embassies in Damascus.

The envoy, Bashar Ja'afari, told reporters that Syria had had sought to protect the embassies and that some demonstrators involved in Monday's events had been arrested and would be brought to justice.

Syria: Clinton's comments proof of US intervention

The Syrian state news agency SANA said Clinton's remarks were "another proof of the US's flagrant intervention in Syria's internal affairs".

"The legitimacy of Syria's leadership is not based on the United States or others, it stems from the will of the Syrian people," it said.

Crowds broke into the US embassy in Damascus on Monday and tore down plaques, while security guards using live ammunition drove crowds away from the French embassy.

The attacks followed protests against a visit by US Ambassador Robert Ford and French envoy Eric Chevallier to the city of Hama, now the focus of the uprising against Assad.

Inspired by the protests that unseated the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, Syrians have been taking to the streets in their thousands since March, calling for more political freedom and an end to corruption and poverty.

Assad has responded with a mixture of force and promises of reforms. He sent his troops and tanks to numerous cities and towns to crush protests, and thousands have been arrested.

But Assad has also granted citizenship to tens of thousands of Kurds, lifted the draconian state of emergency, freed hundreds of prisoners and called for a national dialogue.

A two-day meeting aimed at setting the framework for national dialogue and discussing legislation that would allow a multi-party system and constitutional amendments issued its final statement on Tuesday, endorsing the formation of a committee to rewrite the constitution.

Western governments have condemned Assad's violence against protesters, but their practical response has so far been limited to sanctions against top officials, a far cry from the military intervention against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.


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