Call for strong UN curbs on Syria |
Arab News - 07 June, 2012
The United States gave its backing yesterday to the Arab League's proposal to invoke the United Nations' tough Chapter 7 sanctions against the Syrian regime.
"We the United States hope that all responsible countries will soon join in taking appropriate actions against the Syrian regime, including, if necessary, Chapter 7 action in the UN Security Council, as called for by the Arab League last weekend," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.
The US is focused on boosting international economic sanctions against Syria "that can help hasten the day the Assad regime relinquishes power," Geithner said.
Arab League ministers at a meeting on Saturday in Doha urged the United Nations to invoke Chapter 7 to raise pressure on Damascus.
But both the Arab League and the United States have consistent opposed international military intervention in the Syria crisis.
"We have not asked for any military action," said Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi on Saturday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday she would reserve judgment on a Russian proposal for a global conference on Syria that would include Iran together with other powers.
"It's hard to imagine inviting a country (Iran) that is stage managing the Assad regime's assault on its people," she said at the end of a visit to Azerbaijan, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Meanwhile, embattled Assad named a Baath Party stalwart to form a new government yesterday, signaling no political concessions to a 15-month-old uprising, as helicopters and tanks pounded rebels near the Mediterranean coast.
The appointment of Riyad Hijab, agriculture minister in the outgoing government, as prime minister follows a parliamentary election last month which authorities said was a step toward political reform but which opponents dismissed as a sham.
"We expected Assad to play a game and appoint a nominal independent but he chose a hardcore Baathist," said opposition campaigner Najati Tayyara. The new government, like its predecessors, would wield no real power, he added.
"The Cabinet is just for show in Syria and even more so now, with the security apparatus totally taking over."
Activists said army helicopters and tanks attacked rebel positions in the coastal province of Latakia for a second day yesterday, in the heaviest clashes there since the revolt against Assad erupted in March last year.
The relentless violence has shredded an eight-week-old cease-fire deal brokered by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan. Rebels, who say they are no longer bound by the accord, have killed 100 soldiers this week, according to one monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Russia called for a broad international meeting, including regional powers Turkey and Iran, the Arab League, European Union and major UN Security Council members, to rescue Annan's plan.
The British-based Observatory said rebels seized control of police and intelligence buildings in the Latakia town of Selma overnight, before army reinforcements arrived at dawn.
The soldiers killed a rebel captain in Selma and six civilians in Haffeh, a mostly Sunni Muslim area where clashes have been most intense, it said.
Local activists provided shaky footage of a Syrian helicopter firing rockets. A member of the rebel Free Syrian Army in Latakia said its lightly-armed fighters faced shellfire.
"There was heavy fighting all night. In the morning, Syrian forces started shelling Selma and Haffeh," the FSA's Ali Al-Raidi told Reuters.Syria heavily restricts access to international media organizations, which Damascus says have contributed to inciting violence, making it hard to verify reports from either side.
More than 35 people were reported killed on Tuesday and Assad's forces also suffered heavy casualties with at least 26 soldiers killed, many in ambushes by insurgents.
The clashes were a rare surge of violence in Latakia province, home to several towns inhabited by members of Assad's Alawite sect.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a broad international meeting on the crisis in Syria with the aim of reviving Annan's peace plan, but made clear he believed Assad's opponents were responsible for its failure so far.
Western powers also support Annan's peace plan but say pressure must be stepped up against Assad after the massacre of 108 women, children and men in Houla nearly two weeks ago. They hold Assad's forces responsible, a charge Damascus rejects.
"We believe it is necessary to assemble a meeting of states with real influence on different opposition groups. There are not that many," Lavrov said in Beijing, where he is accompanying President Vladimir Putin at a security summit.
"It is all permanent members of the UN Security Council, leading countries in the region, it is Turkey; one should not forget Iran, the Arab League, Organization of the Islamic Conference; the EU could contribute, I think," he added. “The goal of such a meeting — different to the Friends of Syria meetings which are devoted to supporting Syria’s National Council and its radical demands - would be for all external players to agree, honestly and without double standards, to fulfill Annan's plan because we all supported it.”