Double veto as Russia, China nix UNSC resolution on Syria

Other 13 council members vote in favor of resolution calling on Assad to step down; US's UN Amb. Rice calls veto "disgusting," Ban expresses "regret"; Clinton: military intervention "absolutely ruled out."

UNSC vote on Syria resolution 390 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Allison Joyce)
UNSC vote on Syria resolution 390 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Allison Joyce)
UNITED NATIONS - Russia and China joined forces in a double veto on Saturday to knock down a Western-Arab UN Security Council resolution backing an Arab League plan for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step aside.
The other 13 council members voted in favor of the resolution, which would have said that the council "fully supports" the Arab League plan aimed at ending 11 months of bloodshed as Syria has sought to crush an anti-Assad uprising.
Mohammed Loulichki, the UN ambassador of Morocco, the sole Arab member of the 15-nation council, voiced his "great regret and disappointment" that Moscow and Beijing struck down the resolution.
Dropping the usual diplomatic courtesies, US Ambassador Susan Rice said she was "disgusted" by the Russian and Chinese veto, adding that "any further bloodshed that flows will be on their (Russia's and China's) hands."
French Ambassador Gerard Araud told the council, "It is a sad day for this council, a sad day for all Syrians, and a sad day for democracy." He said Moscow and Beijing were now "complicit in the policy of repression" of Damascus.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "deeply regrets" the failure of the Security Council to pass the resolution, a spokesman said, calling it a "disappointment." "It undermines the role of the United Nations and the international community," he added.
This is the second time that permanent members Russia and China have exercised a double veto on the Syria issue. In October, they vetoed a European-drafted resolution condemning Syria and threatening it with possible sanctions.
Diplomats said China had been expected to follow Russia's lead and the decision to veto the text came from Moscow. Russia had complained that the draft resolution was an attempt at "regime change" in Syria, Moscow's close ally and a key Russian weapons export destination.
Russia's decision to vote against the resolution came after US and European officials rejected a series of Russian amendments to the draft resolution that Rice said were "unacceptable."
Prior to the vote, several Western diplomats said that if Russia vetoed the resolution, it would be a sign of what they referred to as the "re-Putinization" of Russian foreign policy - referring to expectations that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will return to the presidency after this year's elections.
The changes proposed by Russia, seen by Reuters, would have introduced language assigning blame to Syria's opposition, as well as the government, for violence in which the United Nations says more than 5,000 people have died.
Western nations reject the idea of equal blame, saying the government is mainly responsible.
Russia had also insisted on dropping a demand that the Syrian government withdraw its security forces from cities, but US and European delegations refuse to include that change.
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Clinton warns more bloodshed if Syria action blocked
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned on Saturday that the risk of more bloodshed and civil war in Syria had increased after her attempt to get Russia to back a U.N. Security Council vote condemning President Bashar Assad had failed.
"If we do not begin the process, I know what will happen: more bloodshed, increasing resistance by those whose families are being killed and whose homes are being bombed, and a greater likelihood that Syria will descend into civil war," she said.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference just as Russia and China were vetoing a resolution backing an Arab League call for Assad to step aside, Clinton said her talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Munich had failed to overcome Moscow's misgivings.
"I thought that there might be some ways to bridge, even at this last moment, a few of the concerns that the Russians had," she said. "I offered to work in a constructive manner to do so. That has not been possible."
Clinton told reporters that Lavrov had asked her what was the "endgame" in the diplomatic negotiations. "Well the endgame, in the absence of us acting together as the international community, I fear, is civil war," she told reporters.
The US Secretary of State said military intervention in Syria had been "absolutely ruled out".