Russia and China have vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution containing a reference to possible sanctions against Syria if its leader pursues a brutal crackdown on opposition protests. The veto sparked U.S. and European outrage.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the draft written by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal was opposed by countries who "would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime." She said Washington is "outraged" by the vote, while France's envoy, Gerard Araud vowed the veto "will not stop us."
Rice and British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant walked out of the Council chamber as Syria's representative launched a bitter condemnation of countries seeking action against President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia's U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin said Moscow opposes sanctions, particularly because many Syrians do not support the anti-government movement. He said what he described as the Europeans' confrontational approach is "against the peaceful settlement of the crisis."
The resolution's four European sponsors revised the draft three times in an attempt to avoid the vetoes. The watered-down measure received nine votes in favor and four abstentions (Lebanon, South Africa, Brazil and India).
The proposal demands the immediate end to all bloodshed in Syria and calls for a new political process in an environment "free from violence, fear, intimidation and extremism." An explicit threat of sanctions was replaced with language merely discussing their possible consideration.
Earlier Tuesday, activists said at least four people were killed in northwestern Syria in clashes between troops and military defectors who support the opposition.
The fighting follows days of military operations in the central town of Rastan, where rights groups said government forces arrested up to 3,000 people in an effort to track down army deserters. Syria's official SANA news agency put the number of arrests "in the dozens."
Syria has been using military force to crush almost seven months of opposition protests demanding an end to Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.