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UK, France build case for UN resolution against Syria

Europe is again taking the lead for international response in another chapter of the Arab Spring, arguing for a UN resolution against Syria. Unlike in Libya, it's not calling for military action.

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“Syria was at the center of the Western policy of engagement in the last two or three years,” said Nadim Shehadi, Syria expert with the London-based think tank Chatham House. “A lot of people invested political capital into arguing for engagement with Assad. And the regime is very clever in blurring people’s vision about what could happen. European policymakers are traumatized by Iraq and Libya, so when Assad paints a picture of a bloody sectarian war developing out of this uprising, they are not willing to take that risk.”

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But Mr. Shehadi says that for the Assad regime to consider a change of course, the West needs to make a strong statement against its actions.

“Syria needs a clear message,” he says. “A message by the West that we do not see Assad as the future of Syria, and as the guarantor of stability in the region. Ambiguity is interpreted by him as a sign of support, as a sign that the West cannot see life beyond him. That is a license to kill, a carte blanche to crack down on the opposition. Without a clear message from the international community, people in Syria are afraid to go that last step and get rid of Assad.”

More than 1,000 Syrians crossed the border to Turkey within the past 24 hours, according to a Turkish official. The refugees say they anticipate a violent crackdown by troops closing in on the northwest border town of Jisr al-Shugur, where earlier in the week 120 members of the security forces were killed by armed gangs, according to the Syrian authorities. Turkish media report that the government in Ankara is preparing for an influx of up to 1 million refugees.

The events in northwestern Syria mark a climax in the unrest that started three months ago and cost more than 1,300 lives, according to human rights activists.

The initiative for a UN resolution is supported by the US, but opposed by Russia and China. A vote on the resolution is expected in the next few days.

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