US assails China, Russia vetoes on Syria at UN

AP News
Posted: Oct 05, 2011 4:44 PM
US assails China, Russia vetoes on Syria at UN

The Obama administration is not finished lashing out at China and Russia for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown on pro-reform protesters.

For the second time in as many days, U.S. officials on Wednesday berated the Chinese and Russians for killing the resolution, saying the two nations were on the wrong side of history. The State Department stopped short of accusing China and Russia of having blood on their hands but said all countries have to take responsibility for their votes on the Council and consequences they may have. China and Russia on Tuesday vetoed a resolution that would have condemned abuses by the Syrian regime but stopped short of imposing sanctions.

"We firmly believe that history will bear out which nations were right and which were on the wrong side in this vote yesterday," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "Countries have to take responsibility for the decision that they made yesterday, and any implications it might have on the ground in Syria."

She called the vetoes "extremely disappointing" and noted in particular that the U.S., along with Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, which sponsored the resolution, had significantly watered down the text by removing any reference to sanctions, something that China and Russia traditionally oppose. "The text that we supported yesterday was far weaker than we would have liked. It didn't even include the teeth, the sanctions _ and even that proved to be too much," Nuland said.

Immediately after the vote on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said 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.

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.

"Clearly, the brave and largely peaceful Syrian opposition that has been standing up to abuse and bullets and torture and arrest day after day in cities across Syria has been severely let down by this vote," she said.

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 to 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.