Europeans Seek UN Action on Syria as Thousands Flee

Posted June 8th, 2011 at 8:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Key European members of the U.N. Security Council have presented a revised resolution condemning Syria for its violent crackdown on peaceful protesters hours after thousands of civilians fearing a military assault fled areas near the Turkish border.

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal introduced the new text Wednesday at a closed Security Council meeting in New York. U.N. diplomats said the new draft, strongly backed by the United States, is aimed at winning more support for the proposal in the council.

But Russia's U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, repeated that Moscow would not support the resolution on the grounds that it would not promote dialogue or help put an end to the violence.

Earlier efforts in the council to respond to the Syrian protests failed to win consensus and were abandoned.

The draft resolution demands an immediate end to the violence and humanitarian access into Syria. It also calls for the Syrian government to initiate steps toward genuine political reform. Diplomats said there could be a vote by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, around 160 more Syrians entered Turkey on Wednesday, raising the number who have crossed in recent days to at least 350. Thousands more civilians fled the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour for Syrian villages around the city.

Residents began to leave the area after the Syrian government accused “armed gangs” of massacring 120 security force members last week and vowed to take decisive action. Syrian forces, including elite troops led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brother , moved to fortify positions in the north on Wednesday.

Opposition activists and residents say last week's fighting was mainly among soldiers, some of whom had defected after refusing orders to shoot protesters.

Also Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Syria to take a more “tolerant” position towards its civilians as his nation faces the increasing tide of Syrian refugees.

Rights groups say at least 1,100 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown against the anti-government campaign that began in March. More than 10,000 people have been arrested.