BEIRUT - Syrian troops closed public squares in Hama on
Thursday after residents poured red paint symbolizing blood on the ground to
mark the 30th anniversary of the massacre President Bashar Assad's father
carried out during an uprising against his rule.
The act of defiance came
as Russia warned it would veto any UN resolution on Syria it finds
unacceptable, making clear it wanted to prevent Libyan-style intervention over
Assad's violent crackdown on 11 months of mass protests and armed
Recent political violence in Syria has killed at least
5,000 people, and activists say Assad's forces have stepped up operations around
the country after appearing to crush rebels who brought the fight to the
outskirts of the capital, Damascus.
Activists in Hama said fire trucks
washed away dye and paint poured on the ground overnight to commemorate the
bloodshed of the elder Assad's 1982 assault on the city - center of an Islamist
revolt against him - at the cost of over 10,000 lives.
"They want to kill
the memory and they do not want us to remember," said an activist in the city,
where residents said tanks blocked main squares to prevent demonstrations. "But
we will not accept it." The anniversary of the Hama massacre comes as Russia
fends off attempts to mobilize the United Nations against Syria.
presented with an Arab League-backed draft resolution
that Washington and Paris
endorse, says that plan - which calls on Assad to hand powers to a deputy -
demands any text rule out intervention, warning it will veto an "unacceptable"
Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security Council
members, stand in the way of a Western push for a resolution
Syrian government's crackdown on unrest.
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UN Security Council
ambassadors met in New York on Wednesday to discuss ways to overcome their
disagreements on the wording of the European-Arab draft resolution that Morocco
submitted to council members on Friday.Russia warns against Libyan precendent
The closed-door negotiations ended without a final agreement and will
resume on Thursday, Germany's UN mission said. The draft will be updated to
reflect Wednesday's discussions, which the mission said were "rather
A council diplomat at the meeting told Reuters, however,
that Russia's envoy Vitaly Churkin reiterated to council members that the
expression of full support for the Arab League plan in the current draft was
He also made clear Moscow could not accept the expression
of concern in the draft about arms sales to Syria unless there was a waver for
weapons transfers to the Syrian government, the diplomat said.
too soon in my judgment to know whether ultimately there will be agreement,"
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters. "It's long past
time for this council to take meaningful action," she said.
Russian comments, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said a "window of hope"
had opened, and vowed redoubled efforts to agree a text "in the next few
Russia says the West exploited fuzzy wording in a March 2011 UN
Security Council resolution on Libya to turn a mandate to protect civilians in
the North African country's uprising into a push to remove the government,
backed by NATO air strikes, that led to the overthrow of Muammar
Russia also worries the draft's threat of further measures
against Syria may lead to sanctions, which it opposes.Main sticking will be on military intervention
Western envoys in New York said the main sticking point was likely to be not
military intervention, on which they were confident agreement could be reached,
but the resolution's support for the Arab League plan demanding Assad give up
power. That is seen by Moscow as tantamount to change of government.
envoys said their biggest challenge would be to reword the draft so that it
still endorses the plan but in a way that is weaker than the current
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told
reporters: "Every member of the council has to make a decision: Whose side are
you on? Are you on the side of the Syrian people?... Or are you on the side of
a brutal, dictatorial regime?" An activist group said Syrian troops in an armored column fired heavy machine guns on Wednesday at homes outside the
southern city of Deraa, where the uprising against Assad began, and that army
defectors fought troops in the northern Idlib province.
news agency SANA reported the funerals of eight security force personnel killed
confronting "terrorist groups", bringing the total of such deaths it has claimed
in the past few days to about 80. It said a general was killed on
Syrian insurgents said on Wednesday Assad's forces had
extended a military sweep against eastern and northern suburbs of Damascus where
they hit rebels hard this week. An activist group said at least 25 people had
been killed in that sweep.
In Wadi Barada on the edge of the capital,
four people were killed in a tank bombardment on Wednesday to flush out rebel
Free Syrian Army units operating near the capital, activists said. SANA said
government forces killed 11 "terrorists" and found bomb factories in their raids
on the suburbs.
It was not possible to verify the reports as Syria
restricts access for independent media.
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