Beijing pledges not to protect al-Assad regime
BEIJING/DAMASCUSChina will not protect the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday, after Beijing drew international ire for vetoing a U.N. resolution on the country.
Wen’s comments, during an EU-China summit, came after the United Nations’ top human rights representative said the world body’s inaction had “emboldened” the Syrian government to use overwhelming force against its own civilians.
“China will absolutely not protect any party, including the government in Syria,” Wen told reporters in Beijing.
He added that the priority now was to “prevent war and chaos” in the violence-hit country.
China and Russia have faced a barrage of criticism for blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the bloody crackdown on protests in Syria, including from Arab nations with which Beijing normally has good ties.
Germany also said yesterday the EU backs the Arab League’s “firm stance” on Syria and will support it through further sanctions, ahead of talks with the head of the pan-Arab body. The EU supports the Arab League’s action to try to end the bloodshed in Syria and will “also support (it) through further sanctions”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters, speaking alongside Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi. The 22-member pan-Arab bloc agreed Sunday to ask the United Nations to send a joint peacekeeping force to Syria. “What happens in Syria now is something that we in the Arab League should stop. The killing should stop,” Arabi told reporters.
“The main focus of the resolution that was adopted three days ago... was to stop the killing right now.” The EU plans to adopt a new round of sanctions against Assad’s regime on February 27, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann.
Humanitarian disaster in Homs
Meanwhile, Syrian troops battered Homs in some of the heaviest shelling for days in the flashpoint city, a monitoring group said, as the international community warned of a humanitarian disaster. Syria’s army killed at least six civilians Tuesday in the heaviest shelling of Homs for several days, monitors said, as the international community warned of a humanitarian disaster in the city yesterday. Homs was under “brutal shelling,” the Local Coordination Committees activist group said, citing its network of witnesses on the ground.
Another activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said it was the heaviest shelling in days. U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay warned Feb. 13 that the Security Council’s failure to take action has emboldened the Syrian government to launch an all-out assault. Pillay told the General Assembly that more than 5,400 people were killed last year alone, and the number of dead and injured continues to rise daily.
Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff