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UN General Assembly Criticizes Syria, Security Council

August 4, 2012

The United Nations General Assembly has approved a non-binding resolution that both condemns the Syrian government's use of heavy weapons in the fight against rebel forces and criticizes the U.N. Security Council for failing to agree on measures to stem the violence.

The Saudi-drafted measure cleared the assembly on Friday. It expresses "grave concern" over the escalating violence in Syria and reiterates calls for a Syrian-led political transition to a "democratic, pluralistic political system." It also deplores the Security Council's failure to agree on provisions that would ensure the Syrian government's compliance with U.N. decisions.

The measure was approved by 133 representatives of the 193-member assembly, with 12 "no" votes and 31 abstentions.

Russia and China were among the dissenters. The two countries have vetoed three separate Security Council resolutions threatening tougher measures against Syria.

Battles Rage in Syria

Opposition activists say security forces and rebels clashed in the Damascus neighborhood of Tadamun on Friday, in the 17-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

They also say government attacks and clashes erupted in other areas of the country, including Hama and Idlib province.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels took over a police station in the northern city of Aleppo where government forces have been pounding neighborhoods in a bid to regain control of rebel strongholds.

The Britain-based group says at least 25 people were killed in unrest across Syria, including 12 security officers who died during a four-day battle with rebels in Deir el-Zour province.

Praise, Criticism for UNGA Resolution

The resolution that cleared the assembly was a watered-down version of a draft debated earlier in the week.

The measure's Arab sponsors dropped language calling for Mr. Assad's resignation, due to objections.

However, the resolution still drew strong condemnation from some countries, including Syria and Russia.

Syria's ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, called the resolution a "piece of theater." He called its main sponsors, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, "despotic oligarchies."

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blasted the resolution. It "hides blatant support to the armed opposition," he said.

The measure drew support from Western countries, including the United States and France.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said "despite the continued opposition of an increasingly isolated minority," an "overwhelming majority" of U.N. members were standing with the Syrian people.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud also welcomed the measure but criticized the Security Council for a lack of action on Syria.

UN Envoy Resigns

The U.N. General Assembly vote comes just one day after Kofi Annan announced his resignation as U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, blaming a lack of international support and "finger-pointing and name calling" in the Security Council.

"The increasing militarization on the ground and the clear lack of unity in the Security Council have fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise of my role," he said.

Both the Syrian rebels and the government failed to commit themselves to Mr. Annan's peace plan for Syria, which included an immediate cease-fire and talks on a transitional government.

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