20 Jul 2012

Rebels seize Syrian border posts as UN flounders

Syrian rebels seize posts on the Iraqi and Turkish borders amid failing diplomacy and fears the government will turn to chemical weapons to stop an uprising that has already killed thousands.

“The potential for this regime to consider using chemical weapons against its own people should be a concern for us all,” Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN Security Council, said as the UN again failed to agree on sanctions for Syria.

Russia and China voted down a UN Security Council resolution on Thursday, the third time the two countries have used their veto power to block resolutions to isolate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On Friday, China blamed western “arrogance and inflexibility” for the failed UN vote.

“Western diplomats rushed to point fingers at Russia and China after the resolution was defeated, but they have only themselves to blame for trying to force such an ill-considered draft through the council,” Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said on Friday.

‘Darkest hour’

Britain, meanwhile, blamed Russia and China for their “inexcusable and indefensible” position.

“They have turned their back on the people of Syria in their darkest hour,” Mr Hague said.

Britain, the US and France backed the UN draft resolution which threatened sanctions unless Syria halts the violence. The 11-2 vote was taken with abstentions from South Africa and Pakistan,

At least 180 Syrians were killed yesterday by security forces, al Jazeera television reported. Amateur video posted online on Thursday showed Syrian rebels taking over the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, stomping on portraits of President Bashar Assad and burning the Syrian flag. The video could not be independently verified.

UN mission suspended

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who met Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing earlier this week, said he was “deeply disappointed” after the UN vote. There are 300 UN observers in Syria but the mission suspended activity in the midst of increasing violence.

Assad made his first appearance on state television yesterday after a bomb killed some of his top lieutenants.

Photos also taken yesterday (top left) show his supporters kissing Assad’s picture. But there were also reports of continuing unrest in Damascus after a rebel attack struck at the heart of the regime, killing three senior officials including his defence minister.