Russia firm on Syria stance as Turkey urges UN action

Russia firm on Syria stance as Turkey urges UN action

Russia firm on Syria stance as Turkey urges UN action

US Secretary of State Clinton (R) speaks to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague at Security Council meeting. A Syrian rebel (inset) guards an alley at Rastan area in Homs.

The U.S. called on U.N. Security Council member countries to decide whether to side with the Syrian people or a “brutal” dictatorship on Feb. 1, while Russia said yesterday Moscow will not stop arms sales to Syria.

Russian state news agencies quoted Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov yesterday as saying Russia was not violating any international obligations.

United Nations ambassadors this week are trying to overcome Russia’s opposition to a draft resolution calling for Bashar al-Assad to surrender power. Moscow said it would veto the draft because it believed it opened the way for eventual international military action. 

“Every member of the council has to make a decision: Whose side are you on?” United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters when questioned about Russian opposition to an Arab- and Western-backed resolution condemning al-Assad. “Are you on the side of the Syrian people? Or are you on the side of a brutal dictatorial regime?” the chief U.S. diplomat asked.

The draft resolution, introduced by Morocco, calls for the formation of a unity government leading to “transparent and free elections.” It stressed there will be no foreign military intervention in Syria as there was in Libya, which helped to topple Moammar Gadhafi. A new draft was expected to be prepared following talks Jan. 1 and submitted to council members yesterday for new discussions, diplomats said.

As the clashes continued yesterday in Syria where the death toll as of Feb. 1 amounted to 59, the opposition commemorated the Hama massacre carried out by al-Assad’s father 30 years ago, activists said. Two workers from the General Textile Company in Homs province were wounded by the gunfire yesterday, state-owned news agency SANA reported. The opposition staged a general strike in Hama in memory of the Hama massacre. Activists in Hama said fire trucks washed away dye and paint poured on the ground overnight to commemorate the bloodshed of the elder al-Assad’s 1982 assault on the city, a center of an Islamist revolt against him, at the cost of over 10,000 lives. 

“They want to kill the memory and they do not want us to remember,” said an activist in the city, where residents said tanks blocked main squares to prevent demonstrations. “But we will not accept it.” 

The anniversary of the Hama massacre comes as the United States, European governments and Arab states discuss the possibility of exile for al-Assad despite skepticism the defiant Syrian president was ready to consider such an offer.

While talks have not progressed far and there is no real sense that al-Assad’s fall is imminent, one Western official said Feb. 1 as many as three countries were willing to take him. Two sources said no European states were prepared to give al-Assad sanctuary, but one official said the United Arab Emirates might be among those open to the idea. Turkish President Abdullah Gül told daily Radikal yesterday that Turkey would consider giving asylum to the Syrian president “if such a request were made.”

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News Staff.