International Pressure Mounts Against Syria’s Assad

Posted March 6th, 2012 at 8:10 pm (UTC-5)
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International pressure mounted against Syria's crackdown Tuesday, as the United States said it is proposing a new United Nations Security Council resolution to end the violence and Turkey's leader called on Damascus to quickly open a humanitarian corridor to aid civilians.

The new U.S. draft “demands” Syria cease all violence and protect its population while condemning the “continued, widespread and systematic” human rights violations committed by the authorities. It also calls on the armed opposition to “refrain from all violence” once those conditions are met.

Russia and China, powerful allies that blocked a similar U.N. resolution against Syria last month, made clear they are still standing by President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Syria to immediately aid civilians by providing passage to buffer zones. Mr. Erdogan, a former Assad ally, said the violence had “started to resemble an inhumane savagery in recent days.”

In Washington, President Barack Obama said unilateral U.S. military action against Mr. Assad's government would be a mistake. His comments came one day after influential Republican Senator John McCain called for airstrikes against Syrian targets, saying the U.S. has a moral and strategic obligation to force out Mr. Assad and his loyalists.

On the ground in Syria, the government's brutal crackdown resurfaced Tuesday in southern Daraa province, where troops shelled a village and clashed with army defectors. In Homs, activists said security forces carried out raids in an area next to the former opposition stronghold of Baba Amr and reported gunfire and explosions nearby.

The Red Cross said it is still awaiting approval to distribute aid to the devastated district which endured a nearly monthlong siege. Residents who fled Baba Amr spoke of bodies decomposing under rubble, sewage mixing with litter in the streets and a campaign of arrests and executions.

Secretly shot video footage aired on Monday by a British television station showed what it said were Syrian patients tortured by medical staff at a state-run hospital in Homs. The video, which Channel 4 said it could not independently verify, showed wounded, blindfolded men chained to beds, some of them with clear torture marks on their bodies. U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay says the agency has evidence of torture also occurring in hospitals in Hama and Darra.

Also Tuesday, activists said the military blasted a bridge and a tunnel near the Lebanese border used as escape routes for the wounded and refugees fleeing Homs province.

The U.N. refugee agency said at least 9,000 Syrians have fled into Lebanon since Mr. Assad began his bloody crackdown on anti-government protests last year. UNHCR spokeswoman Dana Suleiman told VOA at least 2,000 Syrians crossed the border in recent days to escape violence from the Homs region.

Syria's state-run news agency quoted President Assad Tuesday saying Syrians have proved their determination to pursue reform and fight “foreign-backed terrorism,” which the government blames for the nearly year-long unrest.

The Syrian government has also agreed to visits this week from former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, the new special envoy to Syria, and U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos. Annan goes to Damascus Saturday and Amos said she will arrive in the capital on Wednesday.

The United Nations estimates that violence linked to the uprising has killed at least 7,500 people since it began last March. Syria blames the unrest on “armed terrorist groups” backed by foreign conspirators.