European Bid to Censure Syria Faces Opposition Citing Libya

A new European bid to stop Syria’s government from attacking protesters met resistance at the United Nations today from envoys concerned that intervention might lead to the type of stalemated conflict raging in Libya.

“No one wants Syria opened up the way it happened in Libya,” India’s Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said after the UN Security Council met in closed session in New York. “For the moment, it would be best not to do anything.”

China, Brazil, India and Russia, which abstained from the UN resolution authorizing attacks on Libyan security forces, are concerned that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s bombing campaign has exceeded its mandate to protect civilians and has produced a bloody stalemate. China and Russia led opposition last week that blocked Security Council condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague instructed his government’s UN mission this week to make another attempt at Security Council pressure on Syria’s government, and was backed today by France and Germany, France’s Ambassador Gerard Araud said. British Deputy Ambassador Philip Parham said no decision has been made on what specific action to seek.

Syrians staged protests in several cities today in defiance of an army crackdown in the southern region of Daraa and the arrest of hundreds of activists in the capital, Damascus. As many as 15 people were killed in Homs, Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights, said by phone.

‘It Didn’t Fly’

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin reiterated his government’s position that the situation in Syria isn’t a threat to international peace and security, which is the standard for UN Security Council intervention. “Things are getting better there, anyway,” Churkin said.

“It didn’t fly,” Syria’s Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said of the European bid for UN intervention.

The U.S. and its European allies may have a better chance at derailing Syria’s bid for a seat on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, according to Puri and other diplomats who said Syria won’t be able to win the 97-vote majority needed for election in the General Assembly on May 20.

“The point that needs to be made is that you cannot keep this score of 120 killed every Friday and be on the Human Rights Council,” said Puri.

Puri said Syria might drop out of the race, turning over its spot on the slate of Asian candidates for a council seat to Kuwait, which is up for election next year.

Syria is still seeking the seat “up to this moment,” Ja’afari said.

Pressure on Syria to drop out increased when the Human Rights Council voted 26 to 9, with 7 abstentions, to adopt a U.S.-draft resolution censuring the Assad regime for its attacks on protesters.

Egypt’s Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said some Arab ambassadors are giving Ja’afari “friendly advice” to withdraw so that the Arabs, who lost one seat on the Human Rights Council when Libya was suspended in March, don’t lose another.

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