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Russia hints at veto of UN sanctions on Syria

Russia hints at veto of UN sanctions on Syria

The U.N. Security Council should use dialogue to persuade Syria to end its violent crackdown on protesters, Russia's envoy said Wednesday, hinting he may veto a draft resolution being circulated to impose an arms embargo and other measures on President Bashar Assad's regime.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters outside council chambers that instead of punishing Syria, the council should use dialogue and diplomacy to help end the violence.
Churkin said he had registered his country's opposition on Wednesday to the sanctions proposed by Britain and supported by France, Germany, Portugal and the United States.
The proposal is expected to come up for a vote as early as this week and Russia is among five permanent council members empowered to veto it. Churkin said such sanctions could "encourage further confrontation" and "we need to instead encourage dialogue."
Asked whether he would register a veto, Churkin said: "I think you can make your conclusion from my words."
The resolution could also face possible opposition from other council members, including veto-wielding China.
South African Ambassador Baso Sangqu said his country was still studying the proposal, emphasizing that it had chosen "the path of peaceful resolution" in dealing with the situation in Syria. Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said his country had "questions and concerns" about the text.
With Assad's forces continuing to crack down on the protests, the U.N. said this week the overall death toll has reached 2,200.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay has asked the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, the permanent war crimes tribunal, based in The Hague, Netherlands.
The draft resolution calls for freezing the assets of 23 key Syrian figures including Assad, his younger brother, Maher, who is believed to be in command of much of the current bloody crackdown, and his millionaire cousin, Rami Makhlouf, who controls the mobile phone network and other lucrative enterprises in Syria and has been the target of many protesters' rage.
It also calls for an asset freeze against two companies controlled by Makhlouf _ Bena Properties and Al Mashreq Investment _ and the Military Housing Establishment and Syrian General Intelligence Directorate. The resolution would also impose a travel ban on 21 individuals including Makhlouf, but not Assad or his younger brother.
The draft resolution "strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, also of children."