U.N. panel votes to condemn Syria for violent crackdown
REPORTING FROM BEIRUT — A United Nations committee voted Tuesday to condemn Syria for its violent crackdown on protesters, stepping up pressure on the country's increasingly isolated president, Bashar Assad, after Turkey's prime minister urged him to step down.
Critics and even some allies are growing increasingly impatient with Syria, where U.N. officials estimate 3,500 people have been killed since anti-government protests erupted in March.
A leading opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees, reported that 32 more people were killed Tuesday, including six children.
Casualty figures are difficult to confirm because Syria has restricted journalists' access into the country. The government blames the bloodshed on armed "terrorists" and says more than 1,000 security force members also have been killed.
"For the welfare of your own people and the region, just leave that seat," Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised address to party members in Ankara, referring to Assad.
A onetime ally of the Syrian leader, Erdogan has grown increasingly blunt in his criticism. He warned Assad on Tuesday that he risks the same ignominious end as Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi, who was slain last month after his capture by rebels.
"If you want to see someone who has fought until death against his own people, just look at Nazi Germany, just look at Hitler, at Mussolini, at Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania," Erdogan said. "If you cannot draw any lessons from these, then look at the Libyan leader who was killed just 32 days ago."
The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee voted 122-13 with 41 abstentions in support of a non-binding resolution demanding an immediate halt to human rights abuses in Syria and implementation there of a faltering Arab League peace plan.
Britain, France and Germany drafted the measure after Russia and China last month vetoed a resolution in the Security Council that threatened sanctions against Syria. Moscow and Beijing abstained Tuesday, news services reported.
Six Arab nations were among the co-sponsors of the draft resolution, which must now go before a U.N. plenary session, where it is expected to easily win approval. Among those voting against the measure was Iran, a staunch ally of Syria.
Bashar Jaafari, Syria's ambassador to the U.N., accused the United States of orchestrating the move.
"This draft resolution definitely has nothing to do with human rights," he said, according to Reuters. "It is only a part of the typically hostile policy by the United States against Syria."
— Alexandra Zavis
Photo: This handout photo is said to show demonstrators marching Monday in Homs against the government of President Bashar Assad. Credit: Reuters