Brazil, India, S. Africa Planning Mission to Syria on Violence

Brazil, India and South Africa, which have blocked United Nations pressure on Syria’s government to end repression of protesters, will send envoys to Damascus to seek an end to the violence, according to South Africa’s ambassador to the UN.

The three emerging political and economic powers, which in 2003 formed the coalition known as IBSA, plan to send deputy foreign ministers on the mission, according to South African Ambassador Baso Sangqu.

“The goal is to engage Syria, understand where they are, and see if we can assist them to overcome the difficulties they have,” Sangqu said in an interview. The mission expects to be in Damascus soon, he said.

As elected members of the UN Security Council, Brazil, India and South Africa have combined to put off action on a U.S. and European draft resolution condemning the Assad regime’s attacks on anti-government protesters. Western diplomats say that support from the three might dissuade China and Russia from vetoing it.

Activists, analysts and Syrian refugees say the uprising, which has caused a reported 2,000 deaths, will intensify during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts next week. The protesters are calling for democracy and civil rights in a country, ruled by the Assad family for four decades, that has been a key opponent of U.S. and Israeli policy in the Middle East and a power-broker in neighboring Lebanon.

Tally of the Dead

Britain’s Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said the Security Council was told during a closed briefing today that the situation in Syria was “deteriorating.” The U.S., Britain, Colombia, France, Germany, Nigeria and Portugal were among council members calling for action, including a day-by-day tally of deaths read off by France’s Ambassador Gerard Araud.

“I made the case that the Security Council should not remain silent,” Lyall Grant said. UN Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe reported that a “large number of civilians were still being killed by the regime, peaceful protesters were being repressed, the number of refugees is increasing and the number of civilian prisoners in detention is increasing,” Lyall Grant said.

Western powers would like to hear about alternative efforts to end the violence, he said.

Brazil, India and South Africa are aspiring permanent members of the Security Council that have reshaped the political dynamic in the UN’s principal policy making panel.

“The dynamics of the Security Council are not what they used to be,” Portugal’s Ambassador Jose Moraes Cabral said. “There are new forces, different groupings and, of course, one must take account of them.”

The IBSA nations “reflect a view of the world that is different from the American and former colonialist European view, in that they are very prickly about developing-nation sovereignty,” Jeff Laurenti, UN analyst at the New York-based Century Foundation research group, said in an interview.

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