Thursday, April 28, 2011

Syhrian Tanks to Deraa Govt Joins UNHRC

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Thursday, April 28, 2011 | 10:48 Beirut Subscribe to NOW Lebanon RSS feeds

Assad under pressure as hundreds of Baathists quit
April 28, 2011 share
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[Assad under pressure as hundreds of Baathists quit]
An image grab taken from footage uploaded on April 14 by Sham SNN, a Syrian opposition web channel, shows a Syrian security officer kicking an anti-government protester in the face while he is handcuffed with other demonstrators following a crackdown in the northwestern village of Bayda. (AFP/SHAMSNN)

Foreign pressure mounted on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, and hundreds of members resigned from his party, as troops kept their grip on the flashpoint town of Daraa.

Syria's opposition warned Assad that he would be toppled unless he ushered in democratic reforms, although the UN Security Council failed to agree on a condemnation of the violence.

And in a fresh blow to the regime, 233 members of Syria's ruling Baath party announced their resignation in protest at the deadly crackdown on protesters, according to lists seen by AFP.

"The security services have demolished the values with which we grew up. We denounce and condemn everything that has taken place and announce with regret our resignation from the party," they said in a signed statement.

Baath party signatories from the Banias region, which covers Daraa, condemned "the house raids and the indiscriminate use of live fire against people, homes, mosques and churches."

On the international scene, influential US Senator John McCain said Assad has "lost his legitimacy" and called for UN sanctions to force him to halt attacks on his people.

"I obviously think he has lost his legitimacy. He has ordered his army to fire on his own people, and yes I think he should leave," the senator told AFP in Paris.

The Security Council, however, failed to agree on a statement condemning the killing of Syrian protesters, diplomats in New York said. After talks ended in deadlock, Western nations called for an immediate open meeting.

A stormy meeting on Syria, coming only days after the 15-nation body failed to agree a statement on Yemen, highlighted a growing divide on how to handle the uprisings in the Middle East and Arab world, with Russia warning the West that "outside interference" could spark civil war.

France called for "strong measures" if Assad rejects appeals to end violence in which hundreds have died. The United States said Assad must "change course now" and end the use of tanks and guns.

Russia and China blocked the statement proposed by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal that would have condemned the violence and backed calls for an independent investigation.

The European Union, meanwhile, is mulling sanctions and the UN human rights body has called for a special session in the wake of the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Five EU countries were also summoning Syria's ambassadors over the violent crushing of dissent, France said, adding it was joined by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

According to human rights activists, the military assault on Daraa, 100 kilometers south of Damascus, has left more than 30 people dead since Monday, with at least 453 civilians killed across Syria since protests first erupted in mid-March.

A military source, meanwhile, said soldiers on Wednesday confronted "terrorist armed groups" who had cut off roads and opened fire on passers-by in a Daraa drive-by shooting.

"One member of the armed forces was martyred and five others were wounded," said the source, quoted by the official media, adding that several of the gunmen were also killed.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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