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US diplomats exit Syria: Can West prevent descent into more violence? (+video)

Western leaders call for a coalition to side with 'Syrian people' against Assad, and UN leader Ban says failed Security Council resolution gives Syria 'no license' to step up attacks on civilians.

By Staff writer / February 6, 2012

Demonstrators against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hold a massive Syrian flag and chant outside the United Nations a day after fresh violence was reported in the embattled nation, Saturday, in New York.

John Minchillo/AP


United Nations, N.Y.

After Russia and China’s veto of a Security Council resolution Saturday and with violence in Syria flaring, Western leaders are calling for a coalition of the willing to take the side of the “Syrian people” and force Bashar al-Assad from power. And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a stern warning to Syrian leaders that they are accountable for acts of violence by their security forces against Syrian citizens.

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The Western leaders, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Arab League representatives, are not explicitly calling for the kind of force that NATO used to bring down Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, but rather for a ratcheting up of sanctions and increased efforts to deny the Assad regime the arms it is using to attack the Syrian opposition.

But implicit in some of their words is the eventuality of arming opposition forces – or looking the other way while others arms them – a move some regional experts say could set up a dangerous world-powers duel pitting the West and the largely anti-Iran Arab League against Russia and Iran, the Assad regime’s close ally. Such a scenario reinforces the assessment by most analysts that Syria is heading toward more, and perhaps protracted, violence.

Reflecting its sense of swiftly deteriorating conditions in Syria, the State Department announced Monday that US diplomatic activities in the country have been suspended and that the US ambassador, Robert Ford, and all diplomatic personnel have left the country.

The deep divide splitting world leaders over Syria was evident in reactions to the Security Council’s 13-2 vote Saturday. The Russian and Chinese vetoes killed the resolution, despite the lopsided support from the rest of the 15-member body.

Secretary Clinton called the vote a “travesty” and pledged renewed efforts to pressure Assad from the majority of the world favoring action.

Calling for formation of a group of “friends of democratic Syria,” Clinton said Sunday the US would “redouble our efforts outside the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.”

President Sarkozy employed similar words Saturday, saying  France was consulting with its European and Arab partners about creating a “group of friends of the Syrian people” to, among other things, support the Arab League’s plan calling for a transition government in Syria.

“France is not giving up,” Mr. Sarkozy said.


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