US assails China, Russia vetoes on Syria at UN

Posted Oct. 05, 2011, at 9:57 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 06, 2011, at 5:24 a.m.

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The Obama administration stepped up its criticism of China and Russia on Wednesday for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown on pro-reform protesters, and presumably for selling more arms to Bashar Assad’s government despite violence that has killed nearly 3,000 people since March.

Describing the two governments as unable to stand with peaceful protesters for “even one day in one city,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advanced two days of angry U.S. criticism at its fellow U.N. Security Council members. Without mentioning either by name, she suggested they were continuing to sell military equipment to Syria and that they also had blood on their hands for the violence.

“Those countries that continue to send weapons to the Assad regime that are turned against innocent men, women and even children, should look hard at what they are doing,” Clinton told reporters in the Dominican Republic, where she was attending a regional economic conference. “Those nations are standing on the wrong side of history. They are protecting the wrong side in this dispute. And the Syrian people are not likely to forget that, and nor should they.”

China and Russia killed what Clinton called a resolution that “represented the bare minimum that the international community should have said in response to the months of violence that the Assad regime has inflicted on the Syrian people.” She said the defeat means the Security Council has failed in its responsibility to maintain international peace and defend civilians.

The statement would have condemned abuses by Assad’s government, without imposing any international sanctions. With the resolution effectively dead, Clinton declined to say what other routes the administration and its European allies might pursue to pressure Assad’s regime to end its crackdown and begin a political transition, as President Barack Obama has demanded.

“The countries that chose to veto the resolution will have to offer their own explanations to the Syrian people, and to all others who are fighting for freedom and human rights around the world,” Clinton said. “We note the frightening distinction between those Syrians who stand peacefully for change every day in cities across their country, and those countries that would not stand wit h them on even one day in one city yesterday.”

The remarks echoed those of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who said immediately after Tuesday’s vote that the “the courageous people of Syria can now clearly see who on this council supports their yearning for liberty and human rights — and who does not.”

“Those who oppose this resolution and give cover to a brutal regime will have to answer to the Syrian people — and, indeed, to people across the region who are pursuing the same universal aspirations,” she said.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that while the Syrian government might be pleased with the result, Syrian opposition figures were outraged. She said she had seen a “gruesome cartoon” on one opposition website that depicted two oil spigots labeled “China” and “Russia” with blood dripping from them.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Syrian government denied reports, including one from Amnesty International, that its overseas embassies were harassing and intimidating Syrian expatriates who have sided with the opposition. Syria’s embassy in Washington denounced the allegations were “lies and distortions.”

“These preposterous allegations claim that the embassy is involved in targeting or intimidating Syrian expatriates in the U.S., which is absolutely untrue,” it said in a statement. “This is an outrageous travesty of truth. Promoted and proclaimed by vicious circles. It comes within the framework of an extensive campaign to instigate hatred and incite animosity. The purpose is simply t o undermine any engagement process aiming to solve the crisis in Syria.”

At the State Department, Nuland said that it had referred complaints it had received from Syrians in the U.S. to the FBI, which is investigating.

“We remain concerned about this extremely unethical practice of the Syrian government,” she said.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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