Russia, China defend veto of Syria draft resolution

Moscow says resolution would have meant "taking sides in civil war"; Beijing: Forced regime change "an error."

United Nations Security Council 311 (R) (photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
United Nations Security Council 311 (R)
(photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
Russia and China on Monday defended their decision to veto a recent United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Syria pressing Syrian President Bashar Assad to abandon power.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the adoption of the Western-Arab resolution would have meant taking sides in a civil war. He added that the draft made demands on the government and its forces but required little of violent elements in the opposition.
Speaking after talks with Bahrain's foreign minister, Lavrov declined to say what message he would bring to Assad when he travels to Damascus on Tuesday at the behest of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
He said Russia was pressing Assad's government to implement democratic reforms more swiftly but that some opponents were using the protest movement in Syria to seek "regime change" violently.
China's state-run media on Monday also defended the government's rejection of the UN resolution, saying Western intervention in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq showed the error of forced regime change.
The People's Daily, the top newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, set out in a commentary a defense of the decision to join Russia at the weekend in vetoing a draft UN resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to quit after months of worsening bloodshed.
The newspaper suggested that Chinese distrust of Western intervention lay behind the veto, which drew condemnation from Western governments with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling it a "travesty."
"The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and numbers of civilian casualties keep rising," the newspaper, which echoes government thinking, said in the commentary.
"Vetoing the draft Security Council resolution does not mean we are giving free rein to letting this heart-rending state of affairs continue."
The author of the commentary used the pen name "Zhong Sheng," which can mean "voice of China" and is often used to give the government's position on foreign policy.
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The conflicting Chinese and Western positions on Syria exposed a more general rift about how China should use its rising influence and whether it should foresake its long-standing, albeit unevenly applied, principle of non-interference in other countries' domestic conflicts.
Russia and China's veto came a day after activists say that Syrian forces bombarded a district of the city of Homs, killing more than 200 people in the worst bloodshed of the 11-month Syrian uprising.