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UN General Assembly condemns Syria crackdown

China, Russia, Iran oppose the text put forward by Arab states:

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly on Thursday demanded an immediate halt to Syria’s brutal crackdown on dissent, in a strongly worded resolution adopted by a 137-12 vote.

China, Russia and Iran opposed the text put forward by Egypt and other Arab states, and supported by Western powers, that condemned “widespread and systematic violations of human rights” by President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Seventeen nations abstained from the vote, which came just days after Russia and China locked diplomatic arms to use their veto power to derail a similar resolution in the UN Security Council for the second time.

While the resolution will increase the pressure on Assad, it is non-binding and does not carry the same weight as a Security Council resolution.

Egypt's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Osama Abdelkhalek, said the General Assembly had sent an “unambiguous message” to Damascus: “It is high time to listen to the voice of the people.” But his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Jaafari, denounced the text as unwarranted meddling in his nation's domestic affairs, at a time when Damascus is battling “armed terrorist groups” while preparing for a referendum in 10 days on a new constitution.

“The Arab Trojan horse has been unmasked today,” he said, alleging that Western powers had deftly exploited the Arab League in order to “internationalize” the situation. Human rights groups say more than 6,000 people have been killed since regime forces launched a crackdown on anti-government protests launched in March 2011, in the midst of popular uprisings across the Arab world.

Iran’s ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee, said the General Assembly resolution would only deepen the Syrian crisis, “with all its ramifications to the region as a whole.” Russia's envoy said the resolution failed to incorporate amendments Moscow had proposed. His Chinese counterpart said it amounted to undue meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

The resolution, co-sponsored by 71 countries, heaps more international pressure on Assad’s regime despite the unwavering diplomatic support it has secured from Moscow and Beijing.

“There are virtually no apologists left among UN states for Syria’s disastrous human rights record,” said Philippe Bolopion, UN director for Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

The text demands that Syria “cease all violence and protect its population,” free everyone detained in connection with the unrest, withdraw all troops from urban areas and guarantee freedom of demonstration. AFP

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