On a dangerous path?
Photo: AP

Syria warns against UN censure

Damascus crackdown on demonstrators takes even deadlier turn as Assad resorts to airstrikes; Syria tells Security Council interfering in its internal affairs 'would only aid terrorists'

Syrian helicopter gunships fired machineguns to disperse pro-democracy protests Friday, in the first reported use of air power to quell unrest in Syria's increasingly bloody three-month-old uprising.


The use of the aircraft came on a day of nationwide rallies against President Bashar Assad. The helicopters opened fire in a northwestern town after security forces on the ground killed five protesters, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


"At least five helicopters flew over Maarat al-Numaan and began firing their machineguns to disperse the tens of thousands who marched in the protest," one witness said.



Syria's state television, in contrast, blamed violence in the area on anti-government groups. It made no mention of attack helicopters but said an ambulance helicopter had come under fire over Maarat from "terrorist armed groups," injuring crew.


Britain, France, Germany and Portugal have asked the UN Security Council to condemn Assad, though veto-wielding Russia has said it would oppose such a move.


Denouncing the Syrian government's actions, the White House said Friday's "appalling violence" had led the United States to back the European draft resolution at the United Nations. "The Syrian government is leading Syria on a dangerous path," the White House said.


In response, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem wrote to the Security Council accusing the opposition of violence and sabotage, Al Arabiya television said. Foreign governments were basing their views on "inaccurate information," it said.


'UN draft will aid terrorists'

The European draft resolution would only embolden "extremists and terrorists," Syria warned UN chief Ban Ki-moon in a letter.


"It is important that the Security Council should not intervene in the internal affairs of Syria, which is a founding member of the United Nations," Moualem told Ban in a letter sent Friday.


"We are quite certain that any resolution that is adopted by that body under any heading will only exacerbate the situation and send a message to those extremists and terrorists to the effect that the deliberate destruction that they are wreaking has the support of the Security Council," he said.


The Security Council is still deliberating its censure of Damascus: Currently, nine council members, including the draft's sponsors Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, plan to vote for it; but Russia and China dislike the idea of any council discussion of Syria and have suggested they might use their veto power to kill the resolution. Lebanon, India, Brazil and South Africa are also said to be unhappy with the draft.


Washington's patience wearing thin

Meanwhile, the White House significantly toughened its stance on Syria, calling for an "immediate end to brutality and violence" and warning Assad was leading his nation on a "dangerous path."


White House spokesman Jay Carney issued a statement saying that "The United States strongly condemns the Syrian government's outrageous use of violence across Syria today and particularly in the northwestern region. There must be an immediate end to the brutality and violence."


The statement contained a clear sign of Washington's growing impatience: "Earlier this week, we urged the Syrian government to exercise maximum restraint and not to respond to its own reported losses through additional civilian casualties," Carney said.


"The Syrian government is leading Syria on a dangerous path. For that reason, it is critical that all Syrians remain united, work to prevent sectarian conflict, and pursue their aspirations peacefully," he continued, raising the prospect of an even deeper abyss of violence and division in Syria.


"We stand by the Syrian people who have shown their courage in demanding dignity and the transition to democracy that they deserve."


Reuters, Yitzhak Benhorin in Washington and AFP contributed to this report



פרסום ראשון: 06.11.11, 06:59
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