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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Security Council to discuss Syria resolution as scores flee to Turkey

The United Nations Security Council is set to discuss a draft resolution on Syria, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday, as scores of Syrian refugees fleeing repression arrived in Turkey where they were looked after by police.

France, Britain, Germany and Portugal have circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution that would condemn Syria for its killing and torture of peaceful protesters and demand an immediate end to the violence. But veto-wielding Russia has voiced opposition.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe of France told reporters after a council meeting Tuesday on HIV/AIDS that it's “inconceivable” that the Security Council is remaining silent when repression in Syria is getting worse and massacres are increasing, according to Agence-France Presse.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decreed a general amnesty for political prisoners. (File photo)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decreed a general amnesty for political prisoners. (File photo)
Mr. Juppe said the resolution’s supporters are waiting for as large a majority as possible in the 15-member council before bringing the resolution to a vote, “and I think it’s a question of days, maybe hours.”

France is Syria’s former colonial ruler with whom President Bashar Al Assad has maintained good relations. The foreign minister said Mr. Assad had lost his legitimacy to rule. Foreign Secretary William Hague of Britain said Mr. Assad must “reform or step aside.”

President Barack Obama of the United States, who last month urged Mr. Assad to lead a transition to democracy or “get out of the way,” did not mention Syria in remarks at a news briefing on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

But in Brussels, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, said: “The prospect of a UN Security Council resolution that’s along the same lines as Resolution 1973 on Libya will not be supported by my country ... The use of force, as Libya shows, does not provide answers.”

Veto-holding Russia abstained on the Libya vote, allowing NATO to begin a bombing campaign that Western powers say saved civilians in revolt-held Benghazi from an onslaught by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s forces, but which has failed to dislodge the Libyan leader.

Syria’s ambassador to France strongly denied a report on Tuesday that she had resigned in protest at the government’s repression of protests, saying it was part of a campaign of disinformation against Damascus.

Lamia Chakkour, shown standing in front of a portrait of Syrian President Assad in the Paris embassy, told France’s BFM television that a report by news channel France 24, featuring a telephone interview with a woman claiming to be her, was false.

Fleeing to Turkey

 The prospect of a UN Security Council resolution that’s along the same lines as Resolution 1973 on Libya will not be supported by my country ... The use of force, as Libya shows, does not provide answers 
Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the European Union
Some 120 Syrian refugees fleeing repression, mostly women and children, meanwhile, have arrived in Turkey where they were looked after by police, according to AFP.

The group of 122 people mostly from the northwest Syrian town of Jisr Al Shughur crossed the border illegally and arrived late Tuesday in the village of Karbeyaz Koyu in Turkey’s southern Hatay province, villagers said.

Police set up a security perimeter around the refugees, put up in the village hall, and carried out identification procedures before taking them to a refugee camp set up by the Red Crescent at Yayladag, 45 kilometers (30 miles) to the west.

None of the refugees was injured.

Villagers said a previous group of 45 Syrians had passed through the village on Saturday before reaching Yayladag camp.

Turkey and Syria share an 800-kilometer (500-mile) border.

Syrian dissidents had warned on Tuesday of a harsh backlash as troops headed for Jisr Al Shughur after the authorities said 120 policemen had been massacred there by “armed gangs.”

The Syrian Revolution 2011, a Facebook group spurring anti-regime protests, appealed to the army to protect civilians against regime agents.

“Thirteen military vehicles are heading to Jisr Al Shughur,” where the alleged massacre took place and which has been the focus of military operations since Saturday, an activist in the town told AFP by telephone.

Though accounts of days of killing in Jisr Al Shughour ranged from an official version of gunmen ambushing troops to residents’ reports of an army mutiny, it triggered international alarm that violence may enter a new and bloodier phase after three months of popular unrest that has left over 1,000 dead.

“The army is taking up position around Jisr Al Shughour,” one anti-government activist told Reuters by telephone, saying residents have seen troops approaching the northeastern town from Aleppo, Syria’s second city, and from Latakia on the coast.

“Most people have left the town because they are scared,” he said, asking not to be named for his own safety.

"National duty"

On Monday, Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said army units would carry out their “national duty to restore security.”

The government has expelled independent journalists, making it hard to determine clearly what is happening in the country.

Despite enthusiasm for pro-democracy movements that have unseated dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, few Western leaders—let alone their autocratic Arab partners—have shown a will to intervene in Syria, an Iranian ally whose volatile mix of ethnic and religious groups sits astride a web of regional conflicts.

President Assad’s family and supporters from the minority Alawite sect have dominated Syria since his late father seized power 41 years ago. The 47-year-old president has responded with promises of reform, and a crackdown on protesters in towns across the country of 23 million people. His officials accuse radical Islamists of fomenting a violent, armed revolt.

Neighboring countries, including Israel and Turkey, worry that a collapse into chaos could set off sectarian conflict and the emergence of violent, radical Islamists, as happened in neighboring Iraq after the US invasion of 2003.

(Abeer Tayel, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English,

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