UN Calls on Syrian President to Step Down

Posted February 16th, 2012 at 4:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down and strongly condemns human rights violations by his regime.

One-hundred 37 nations voted yes with 12 saying no. Seventeen abstained. Russia and China, who vetoed a similar resolution in the Security Council, were among the no votes.

Thursday's resolution is non-binding, but reflects overall world opinion on the situation in Syria.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier Thursday accused Mr. al-Assad's government of committing crimes against humanity. He demanded Syrian security forces stop shelling and using force against civilians.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA at least 24 people were killed across the country Thursday, including four people in clashes in Daraa and 14 people in a government assault on a defected area near Hama.

Rights groups say more than 6,000 people have been killed since pro-Assad forces began cracking down on anti-government protesters last year. The U.N. stopped updating the death toll in January, saying it was too difficult to obtain information.

China said Thursday it is sending a senior diplomat to Syria for talks about the crisis. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun will be in Syria on Friday and Saturday, but could not say who will be involved in the talks.

He said China wants to press for a peaceful resolution. The vice foreign minister met with a Syrian opposition delegation last week in Beijing.