Pressure piling on Syria's Assad
Updated: 2011-08-20 07:53
Several countries push for sanctions against his govt
UNITED NATIONS - A humanitarian mission is readying to visit Syria on the weekend, the United Nations said, as European powers press the UN Security Council for tough sanctions against the government for its crackdown.
As a UN official announced the long-delayed mission, President Bashar al-Assad's envoy accused the West of waging a "humanitarian and diplomatic war" against the government in Damascus, which has been blamed for at least 2,000 deaths since protests started in mid-March.
The Security Council however was told in a briefing on Syria of a shoot-to-kill policy against protesters, stadium executions and children feared killed in Syrian government custody.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal said they are preparing a Security Council resolution that would order sanctions against the Assad government. The United States said it strongly backed the move.
On Friday, Spain became the latest nation to openly back the sanctions on Assad's regime.
"Spain joins these calls," Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiminez told Spanish radio Cadena Ser.
Russia, which has resisted Western calls for UN sanctions, said on Friday it also opposed calls for Assad to step down and believed he needs time to implement reforms.
"We do not support such calls and believe that it is necessary now to give President Assad's government time to realize all the reform processes that have been announced," Interfax news agency quoted a foreign ministry source as saying.
US President Barack Obama and European Union leaders earlier called for Assad to stand down in a move to step up international pressure on the Syrian president over his deadly crackdown on protests.
Britain's deputy UN ambassador Philip Parham announced the sanctions move and told reporters "we cannot let ourselves be strung along by talk of better times ahead".
The measures proposed could include an assets freeze and travel ban against Syrian individuals as well as an arms embargo, Parham said. It was not known when the resolution would be submitted.
France's UN envoy Martin Briens said that top UN officials - including High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and humanitarian chief Valerie Amos - had given "frightening" descriptions of events in Syria to a Security Council meeting on the crisis.
Pillay told reporters she had presented "reliable corroborative evidence" of a shoot-to-kill policy by the Assad government and of summary killings and disappearances.
She told the council of one alleged incident in a stadium in the protest city of Daraa, where 26 blindfolded men were shot dead in execution style on May 1.
A boy of 13 was among the many missing feared killed in government jails, she added.
Hospitals have now become targets of the military assault and some doctors were refusing to treat the injured because they feared persecution, Pillay added.
AFP - Reuters
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