Bloomberg News

Britain, France Accelerate Push at UN for Pressure on Syria

June 08, 2011

(Updates with Cameron comments in second paragraph, Syrians fleeing to Turkey in seventh, IAEA in final two. See EXTRA and MET for more on the regional unrest.)

June 8 (Bloomberg) -- Britain and France responded to escalating violence in Syria by putting forward a motion in the United Nations Security Council to condemn the government’s crackdown on protesters.

“We must not stand silent in the face of these outrages and we won’t,” U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons in London. “We need to go further.” Cameron said that “if anyone votes against that resolution or tries to veto it, that should be on their conscience.”

Attacks on protesters calling for President Bashar al- Assad’s ouster have escalated since the U.S. and the European Union announced sanctions against the Syrian leadership in the middle of last month. Security forces have killed more than 1,100 people and detained more than 10,000 since protests began in mid-March, human-rights groups say.

The timing of the vote “is a question of days, maybe hours,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters after meetings at the UN in New York yesterday. “The repression is getting worse. Massacres are on the rise. It is inconceivable that the UN remains silent on such a matter.”

‘Losing Legitimacy’

The Security Council scheduled a meeting at 3 p.m. today at Britain’s request. Assad is “losing legitimacy and should reform or step aside,” Cameron’s foreign secretary, William Hague, told lawmakers in the House of Commons yesterday.

Syria’s government said this week that 120 of its security personnel were killed in an ambush by “terror groups” in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, a flashpoint for recent unrest, and that it will take action against those responsible. Agence France-Presse cited opposition members, whom it didn’t name, as saying there was a mutiny among security services in the town, and forces loyal to Assad executed police officers who refused to open fire on protesters.

More than 300 Syrians have fled to Turkey in recent days to seek refuge from the violence in Jisr al-Shughour, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said today. Turkey’s state news agency, Anatolia, reported that many more are waiting to make the trip if unrest escalates.

Britain and France led talks in New York over the past two weeks on a UN resolution that would demand that the Syrian government end its attacks on peaceful protesters.

‘Systematic Violation’

The text “condemns the systematic violation of human rights, including the killings, arbitrary detentions, disappearances and torture of peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and journalists by the Syrian authorities.”

The draft doesn’t contain, or threaten, UN sanctions.

Juppe said the talks in New York have produced a majority in support of the measure. He said the final stages of negotiations will focus on creating “as large a majority as possible” to isolate Russia and China, which have signaled that they might veto the draft.

Syria’s government says Islamists and foreign provocateurs are behind the uprising. Local reporters operate under restrictions and members of the foreign media attempting to report from Syria have been jailed or deported.

Syria also faces referral to the Security Council over a site destroyed in a 2007 Israeli raid that the U.S. says was a clandestine nuclear plant designed to build weapons.

European nations joined the U.S. today at the International Atomic Energy Agency in seeking to report Syrian non-compliance with nuclear-safeguard agreements, according to a two-page restricted copy of the resolution obtained by Bloomberg News. The IAEA’s 35-member board of governors is meeting in Vienna and may vote on the proposal tomorrow.

--With assistance from Caroline Alexander in London, Benjamin Harvey in Istanbul and Jonathan Tirone in Vienna. Editors: Eddie Buckle,

To contact the reporters on this story: Bill Varner in New York at; Thomas Penny in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Silva at; To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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