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UN vote undermines peace efforts in Syria: Russia

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly denounced Syria`s crackdown in a symbolic effort meant to push the deadlocked Security Council.

Updated: Aug 04, 2012, 09:26 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New York: Russia`s Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, on Friday condemned a UN General Assembly resolution on Syria.

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly denounced Syria`s crackdown in a symbolic effort meant to push the deadlocked Security Council and the world at large into action on stopping the civil war.

Talking to reporters, Churkin said the resolution was one-sided and undermined peace efforts in the war-torn Syria, adding that it supported the armed opposition.

The resolution, which passed by 133 votes to 12 with 31 abstentions, was hailed by Western nations.

Before the vote, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon accused the Syrian regime of possible war crimes and drew comparisons between the failure to act in Syria with the international community`s failure to protect people from past genocide in Srebrenica and Rwanda.

"The conflict in Syria is a test of everything this organisation stands for," Ban said. "I do not want today`s United Nations to fail that test."

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja`afari called the resolution`s main sponsors, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, "despotic oligarchies”.

"The draft resolution will have no impact whatsoever. It is a piece of theatre," he told reporters after the vote. And Iran`s No 2 ambassador, Eshagh Alehabib, called the resolution "one-sided”.

Assad`s regime stands accused of a number of massacres in which hundreds of civilians, including women and children, were killed. The Syrian government blames gunmen driven by a foreign agenda for the killings, but the UN and other witnesses have confirmed that at least some were carried out by pro-regime vigilante groups, known as shabiha.

But the recent emergence of videos showing summary executions committed by rebel forces — albeit on a far smaller scale than the regime`s alleged atrocities — is making it more difficult for the Syrian opposition to claim the moral high ground.

With the civil war becoming increasingly vicious, chances for a diplomatic solution were fading after the resignation on Thursday of Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria. Annan cited divisions within the Security Council preventing a united approach to stop the fighting.

The fighting continued on Friday in the country`s two most important cities, Aleppo and Damascus.

In Damascus, residents reported loud explosions and plumes of smoke over the southern edge of the city on Friday, as frightened people stayed at home.

"The bombs are back, I have been hearing explosions all day," a resident of central Damascus told a news agency, asking to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

Government forces crushed a rebel assault on Damascus two weeks ago, but pockets of resistance remain including the southern neighbourhood of Tadamon, where most of Friday`s fighting took place.

Late Friday, Syria`s official news agency SANA said government forces had hunted down the remnants of the "terrorist mercenaries" — its term for the rebels — in Tadamon. It said several were killed and many others wounded.

Al-Shami and other activists said troops backed by dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles broke into Tadamon on Friday evening, forcing a fresh wave of residents spilling into nearby areas for shelter.

Many Damascus residents had earlier taken refuge in the country`s largest Palestinian refugee camp, Yarmouk, where mortar shells raining down on a crowded marketplace killed 21 people late Thursday.

Nevertheless, there were signs that rebels may be planning another run on Damascus in an effort to drain the Army`s resources as fighting stretches into its second week in Aleppo, 350 kilometres (215 miles) to the north.

The UN peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, warned of a major government assault on Aleppo in the coming days to retake the rebel-held neighbourhoods.

"The focus is now on Aleppo, where there has been a considerable buildup of military means," he told reporters in New York late Thursday after briefing the Security Council on his trip to Syria. "We have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start."

(With Agency inputs)