Russia, others block UN action on Syria abuses

This unconfirmed still from a video reportedly shows footage of a Syrian protester wounded after clashes with government troops. The Syrian government has intensified a brutal crackdown on dissidents at the start of a Muslim holy month.

Syrian forces kill dozens on eve of holiday
This unconfirmed still from a video reportedly shows footage of a Syrian protester wounded after clashes with government troops. The Syrian government has intensified a brutal crackdown on dissidents at the start of a Muslim holy month.
CBS News

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has "lost all sense of humanity," and President Barack Obama has called the attacks in Syria "horrifying."

Italy recalled its ambassador from Damascus this week. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said: "The Government has been trying to keep the world blind about the alarming situation in the country by refusing access to foreign journalists, independent human rights groups and to the fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council."

Still, no official action was taken by the world body.

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"The shadow of Libya hovers over the (Security) Council," Stephane Crouzat, press spokesman of the French Mission to the U.N., told CBS News on Tuesday evening.

Just minutes later, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Ambassador to the U.N., emerged after two days of negotiations to say that there was no agreement.

Churkin said Russia's view, shared by several members of the Council, was that the proposals on the table were "too far reaching," and that "the required balance has not been achieved in the course of the discussions and the current shape and form of the text may not play a constructive and positive role which we would like to see the Security Council play."

Calling it "time wasted," Churkin said there have been a "number of ideological things that took our attention away from the necessary impact from the proper message from the Security Council."

Churkin said he hoped that overnight, several nations will receive instructions to modify their positions in order to "do everything possible to pull away from the brink of civil war where Syria is finding itself, unfortunately and tragically."

According to diplomats involved in the discussions, the Security Council could have approved a Presidential Statement, requiring unanimity, or a Resolution, which would require nine of fifteen votes, with no vetoes from the five permanent members.

At the moment, the substance of what they want to say is the core of the dispute, diplomats tell CBS News.

Meanwhile, Syrian security forces continued their military attacks in the city of Hama, where, according to several human rights groups, dozens of civilians have been killed by gunfire and shelling in the past few days.

As the fighting in Syria has intensified, President Obama met with Robert Ford on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Syria, and the President issued a statement saying he "reiterated his strong condemnation of the Syrian regime's outrageous use of violence against its own people, and reaffirmed America's support for the courageous Syrian people, and their demands for universal rights and a democratic transition."

At the U.N., it is not for lack of focus on the issue that the U.N. Security Council has been silent about the uptick in violence in Syria. There are fundamental differences in approach, but the Council is under intense pressure to take a position against the mounting violence.

No nation on the Council doubts that the Syrian government crackdown has been brutal, diplomats have said. Sources differ but almost 2,000 people have been killed since protests began in mid-March, and the largest toll has been on civilians.

At the forefront of the U.N. action, the U.K., France, Germany and Portugal circulated a proposed text, similar to an earlier draft Resolution, but both Russia and China opposed it, despite press reports to the contrary.

Opposing the text are also Brazil, India and South Africa. Brazil has proposed additional language that condemns attacks against Syrian security forces and applauds the Assad regime's efforts to create a dialogue.

The Secretary General has been particularly outspoken on the issue. Recently, he said: "Since the beginning of this situation, I have issued many statements, I have spoken to President Assad several times, and I have expressed my sincere wish and genuine wish that he should genuinely, genuinely address these issues in a peaceful manner."

France has tried to make it clear that a U.N. Resolution on Syria would not lead to a military intervention or no-fly zone as there was in Libya, which is the fear of Russia, China, India, Brazil and Lebanon, all current Security Council members.

"The situations in Libya and Syria are not similar," France's foreign ministry spokesperson Christine Fages said in Paris, adding that "no option of a military nature is planned."

The negotiations, led by India's U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, this month's Council president, have not led to a unified text and will continue on Wednesday. For the moment, the U.N. Security Council remains silent as the violence increases.

  • Pamela Falk

    Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.

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