Arab states and West scrabble for new action plan following UN veto


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The Independent Online

Western and Arab governments and opposition activists yesterday scrambled to forge a new plan to stem the bloodshed in Syria after Russia and China's veto of a UN resolution sparked outrage and warnings that the move could tip the country into civil war.

The veto on Saturday meant Moscow and Beijing would be "held responsible" for further violence in Syria, said the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, describing President Bashar al-Assad's government as a "murdering regime".

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said "a travesty" had occurred at the UN in New York, warning that chances for "a brutal civil war" would increase as Syrians under attack from their government move to defend themselves. With the United Nations now hobbled after failing to endorse the Arab League plan urging President Assad, pictured, to cede power and to halt a crackdown reported to have killed thousands, Ms Clinton pressed for more action by "friends of a democratic Syria".

"Faced with a neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people's right to have a better future," she said.

Mr Hague urged the Arab League to push on with its plan to pressure Mr Assad into a peaceful transition of power, with or without UN backing. "Will he [Assad] have been emboldened by the fact that Russia and China vetoed the resolution? Yes, I think so," he said.

On the ground, there was further fighting, with activists reporting at least 56 deaths. One person was killed by a sniper in Homs, where on Saturday up to 200 people were reported killed when regime troops allegedly attacked opposition neighbourhoods. The UN estimates that more than 5,400 have died since protests broke out 11 months ago.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to visit Syria tomorrow. His office said he would push for "rapid reforms" from President Assad – a key customer for Russia's military hardware.