UN Security Council Condemns Syria Crackdown

Posted August 3rd, 2011 at 4:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations Security Council has condemned the Syrian government for using force against civilians and committing widespread human rights violations in President Bashar al-Assad's widening crackdown on dissent.

The Council issued a presidential statement Wednesday, after more than three months of deadlock and silence on Syria's escalating violence. A statement requires unanimous consent of all 15 Council members, but is not considered as forceful as a full resolution.

Lebanon, Syria's neighbor and close ally, did not block the statement but disassociated itself from the text.

The developments came as Syrian forces continued their brutal offensive, as tanks and troops pushed into the flashpoint city of Hama.

Activists and witnesses say loud explosions rocked the town as tanks moved into a central square that has been a rallying point for protesters demanding Mr. Assad's resignation. They say more than 130 people have been killed across Syria since Sunday, when the government stepped up its offensive. Most of the deaths have occurred in Hama.

Meanwhile, Syrian state-run media report says the country's People's Assembly will hold a session on Sunday to discuss “citizens' interests” and “issues related to the homeland.”

In Washington Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Syrian political activists in her first attempt to reach out to the expatriate opposition since the start of anti-government protests.

She encouraged the activists to work with those in Syria, and said the United States will continue to support the Syrian people. Clinton also said the U.S. is working on additional sanctions against Damascus.

Syrian activists also urged U.S. President Barack Obama to call for Mr. Assad to step down. Mr. Obama said last month that Mr. Assad was “losing legitimacy in the eyes of his people” and had missed multiple opportunities to present genuine reforms.

Also Tuesday, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights warned Syria that “the world is watching” developments there. Navi Pillay bluntly criticized what she called Mr. Assad's efforts to shield the brutality of the crackdown by banning most foreign news coverage and preventing a U.N. fact-finding mission from visiting.

Rights groups say Syrian forces have killed at least 1,700 civilians since the uprising began in March. The government has blamed much of the violence on what it says are terrorists and militants who have killed nearly 400 security personnel.