Russia Signals Opposition to Western Bid for Sanctions Against Assad

Russia today signaled opposition at the United Nations to a bid by the U.S. and its European allies to freeze the foreign assets of Syria’s President Bashar al- Assad and impose an arms embargo on his country.

“We don’t think so,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said when asked whether his government would support the proposed imposition of UN sanctions on Assad and 22 senior government officials. Churkin said the UN Security Council should only “work within the scope” of its Aug. 3 statement condemning use of force against civilians by Syrian authorities.

The U.S., Britain and France today circulated a draft resolution to UN Security Council members that would freeze the foreign assets of Assad, his brother Maher and 21 other senior government officials. President Assad was excluded from the list of 22 officials whose travel from Syria would be barred. Maher Assad commands a Syrian army division.

The measure would also freeze the assets of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, the Military Housing Establishment and two entities -- Al Mashreq Investment and Bena Properties -- that are described as funding the Assad regime.

Sale of weaponry to Syria and purchase of arms by the regime would be banned, and all nations would be urged to inspect any cargo going to or from Syria when there is reason to believe it might contain embargoed goods.

Further Sanctions

Adoption by the Security Council would create a committee to make further designations for sanctions and a panel of experts to monitor implementation of the resolution. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon would be asked to report on implementation within 30 days and every 60 days thereafter.

The text would “strongly condemn the grave and systematic human rights violations by Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing of protesters.” It demands an immediate end to the violence.

Russia voted earlier today in the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council against a resolution authorizing an investigation into Syria’s crackdown on anti-government protesters, including possible crimes against humanity. China, which like Russia can veto the sanctions resolution, also voted against the Human Rights Council measure.

The resolution to “urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international human-rights law in Syria since July 2011” passed in Geneva by a 33-4 vote, with nine abstentions, on the second day of a special session on Syria. The European Union, the U.S. and Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, sponsored the resolution.

‘Immoral Course’

“We are beginning the discussion in the Security Council of sanctions that can be imposed on a global basis, and I think Assad needs to know that he is on a dangerous and immoral course that will have significant consequences for his leadership,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said on CNN.

The Human Rights Council condemned what it called “continued grave and systematic human-rights violations by Syrian authorities such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human-rights defenders.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said yesterday that more than 2,200 people have been killed during the crackdown.

Assad has used tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and helicopters to crush the most serious threat to his family’s 40- year rule. The uprisings began in mid-March after revolts ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and sparked a civil war in Libya.

Clear Message

“Today’s resolution sends a clear message from the international community: The writing is on the wall for the Syrian regime,” Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, which heads an international coalition of 50 human-rights groups that petitioned for the Human Rights Council meeting, said in an e- mailed statement. “The government of President Bashar al-Assad is an enemy of human rights and should surrender power immediately.”

Cuba and Ecuador also voted against the resolution, while India, a Security Council member, joined Mauritania, Angola, the Philippines, Cameroon, Uganda, Bangladesh, Djibouti and Malaysia in abstaining.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer M. Freedman in Geneva at jfreedman@bloomberg.net. Bill Varner at the United Nations at wvarner@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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