China defends Syria veto, denies sheltering Assad
BEIJING - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoChina today denied US accusations it was protecting the Syrian regime, after drawing international criticism for vetoing a UN resolution condemning a deadly crackdown on protests by Damascus.
Beijing called on both sides in the conflict to halt violence, after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused China and Russia of "protecting the brutal regime in Damascus", calling their veto of the resolution a "travesty".
"China does not accept the accusations" of the United States on the Syrian veto, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters.
"China does not have its own selfish interest on the issue of Syria. We don't shelter anyone, nor do we intentionally oppose anyone. We uphold justice and take a responsible attitude." Thirteen countries voted for the UN Security Council resolution Saturday, which aimed to give strong backing to the Arab League's plan to end the crackdown in Syria, where opposition groups say at least 6,000 people have been killed.
The Russian and Chinese vetoes came hours after the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) reported a "massacre" in the central flashpoint city of Homs with more than 230 civilians killed during an overnight assault by regime forces.
The rare double veto drew international condemnation, with Syria's opposition saying Beijing and Moscow had handed President Bashar al-Assad's regime a "licence to kill".
But Liu said China -- which has a consistent policy of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs -- had decided to veto the resolution because of the strong divisions within the Security Council on the issue.
The People's Daily newspaper, the mouthpiece of China's Communist Party, added passing the resolution would have led to a "new disaster" in Syria.
"The current situation in Syria is extremely complex," the newspaper said in a signed commentary.
"Simply supporting one side and pressuring the other seems like a way to help bring a turn for the better, but actually it is planting the roots of a new disaster." However, some Chinese bloggers condemned Beijing's decision to veto the latest resolution.
"The Syrian people are being slaughtered. But China cast an opposing vote in the Security Council," said ArshavinThe23, who is based in the central Chinese province of Hunan, on his weibo -- Chinese microblogs similar to Twitter.
"I just want to say, dictator supported dictator," added Qiao Baibai on the popular Sina microblog service.
Another state media outlet, the nationalistic Global Times, said Monday the veto showed that China was displaying a new confidence in international affairs.
"Abstaining is no longer always a choice as China is forced to speak out. China needs to speak out," the English-language edition of the newspaper said.
"The veto may have its consequences, but the Chinese people are willing to face it together." Western powers have vowed to seek new ways to punish Damascus after the double veto -- the second by China and Russia on Syria.
Clinton said the United States would "work to seek regional and national sanctions against Syria and strengthen the ones we have", while France said that Europe would also strengthen sanctions against Damascus.
A top Chinese diplomat said over the weekend that other nations had failed to take account of "reasonable" revision proposals suggested by Russia.
Moscow has also defended its UN veto, saying Western powers had refused to reach a consensus.
"The authors of the draft Syria resolution, unfortunately, did not want to undertake an extra effort and come to a consensus," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov wrote on Twitter.