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Security Council Syria meeting threatens new divide

(AFP) / 1 August 2011

UNITED NATIONS ó Europe and the United States will make a new attempt Monday to force the UN Security Council to condemn President Bashar al-Assadís deadly crackdown in Syria, diplomats said.

But the 15-nation council remains divided over how to react to the Syria bloodshed, with Western nations demanding tough action, but China and Russia threatening to veto any formal resolution.

The council scheduled closed consultations for 5:00pm (2100 GMT) following widespread condemnation of the latest violence in which about 140 people were killed on Sunday, many in the key protest city of Hama.

A senior UN official, assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, will brief ambassadors on what is known about events in the isolated nation before talks start.

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal put a draft resolution to the Security Council on Syria two months ago which was swiftly rejected by China and Russia, with Brazil, India and South Africa also raising strong reservations.

“It is time for the Security Council to take a clear stand on the need to end the violence,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The United States has taken an increasingly strong line on Syria with President Barack Obama calling the latest violence “horrifying.”

“More than ever, in this appalling context, France wants the UN Security Council to take its responsibility and speak strongly and clearly,” said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

“There is outrage over the new deaths, even Russia’s foreign ministry has condemned it, but I am not sure it is going to be enough to change the council dynamics,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Security Council is locked in what many diplomats have called a Libya “hangover.”

Western nations’ use of UN Security Council resolutions on Libya to justify NATO air attacks have infuriated Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa.

Some have said that passing a resolution on Syria would open the way to a military campaign against Assad. This was strongly denied again by NATO and European leaders on Monday.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a French newspaper: “In Libya, we are carrying out an operation based on a clear UN mandate. We have the support of countries in the region. These two conditions are not met in Syria.”

Many countries also have individual interests. Russia has a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus and has expressed interest in expanding its military presence in its strongest Middle East ally.

The opponents of Security Council action are all traditionally opposed to what they consider unjustified interference in the “internal affairs” of individual countries.

India, South Africa and Brazil have told other council members that they plan to send a joint mission to Syria to discuss the crisis, diplomats said. Deputy foreign ministers from each country would go on the mission.

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