GENEVA - The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Syria this Friday to probe last Friday's massacre in the town of Houla, diplomats involved in planning the meeting in Geneva said on Wednesday.
The United States, Qatar, Turkey and the European Union led the push for the special session, which will be the fourth time Syria has been hauled before the UN rights body since unrest broke out in the country early last year.
"It's all materializing very quickly," said one official. "It's going to have huge support."
Russia said on Wednesday that the UN Security Council should not consider new measures to resolve the crisis in Syria at this point and signaled it would block any effort to authorize military intervention, the Interfax news agency reported, while China reiterated its opposition to military intervention.
The Russian warnings came after the French President Francois Hollande said military intervention was not ruled out provided it was backed by the Security Council, and Germany said it would push for "new engagement" by the council on Syria.
Russia supported a non-binding UN Security Council statement on Sunday that strongly condemned the killing of more than 100 civilians in the Syrian town of Houla, criticized the government for using heavy weapons against population centers and called on the government and its foes to end the violence.
That statement was "a strong enough signal to the Syrian sides and a sufficient reaction by the council to the latest developments," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said, according to Interfax.
"We believe consideration in the Security Council of any new measures to influence the situation now would be premature," said Gatilov, whose country has twice vetoed Western-backed council resolutions condemning President Bashar Assad's government over 15 months of bloodshed.
Commenting on Hollande's remark, Gatilov said Russia "categorically opposes any external intervention in the Syrian conflict, as it would only aggravate the situation with unpredictable consequences for Syria and the entire region."
China on Wednesday called again for all sides to support mediation efforts by peace envoy Kofi Annan.
"China opposes military intervention and does not support forced regime change," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news briefing. "The fundamental route to resolving (the crisis) is still for all sides to fully support Annan's mediation efforts."
Liu also stopped short of saying whether China would expel Syrian diplomats, after many Western governments expelled their top Syrian envoys in protest against the killing of civilians in Syria.
"I have not heard that there has been any impact on the Syrian embassy in China," he said.
"We have already made our position clear on the incident. China believes there should be a thorough probe and the murderers brought to justice."
Western and Arab governments opposed to Assad put the blame for the deaths squarely on his government, but Damascus has rejected the charge.
Beijing and Moscow have both vetoed two Security Council resolutions calling for tougher action against Damascus, while stressing hopes for a political solution brokered by Annan.
Any military intervention needs to be discussed thoroughly as it would carry high risk, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said after expelling two Syrian diplomats on Tuesday.
"To arm the Syrian opposition involves real difficulties. Members of the Assad government will interpret this as a license to slaughter even more vigorously than they've been doing to their political opponents," Carr told reporters.
China has repeatedly voiced fears that more forceful international intervention in Syria could worsen the violence, or open the way for Western-led regime change.
The Global Times, a popular tabloid, said in an editorial on Wednesday that it was wrong to assume getting rid of Assad would end the crisis.
"Half the Syrian population remains loyal to Assad, and eradicating this support will be unspeakably painful for the Syrian people," wrote the newspaper, published by the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily.
"The West should not expect China and Russia's cooperation if it insists on dictating its own values and standards to the world by any means it can. It will instead find China and Russia standing in its way."
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