China withdraws support to Assad
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (C) at a press conference with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso (R), and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy at the Great Hall of the People during the EU-China summit in Beijing on Tuesday. (AP)
Published: Feb 14, 2012 22:31 Updated: Feb 14, 2012 22:31
BEIJING/BEIRUT/BERLIN: China will not protect the regime of Syria's President Bashar Assad, Premier Wen Jiabao said, after Beijing drew international ire for vetoing a UN resolution on the country.
Wen's comments, during an EU-China summit on Tuesday, came after the United Nations' top human rights representative said the world body's inaction had "emboldened" the Syrian government to use overwhelming force against its own civilians. "China will absolutely not protect any party, including the government in Syria," Wen said in Beijing.
He added that the priority now was to "prevent war and chaos" in the violence-hit country.
China and Russia have faced a barrage of criticism for blocking a UN Security Council resolution condemning the bloody crackdown on protests in Syria, including from Arab nations with which Beijing normally has good ties.
On Tuesday, Syrian troops battered Homs in some of the heaviest shelling for days in the flashpoint city, killing six people, a monitoring group said, as the international community warned of a humanitarian disaster.
"The shelling of the Baba Amr neighborhood began at dawn and is the most intense in five days," said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Two rockets are falling a minute on average," the head of the Britain-based organization told AFP by phone, citing activists on the ground. "Six civilians died in the continuous shelling of Baba Amr neighborhood this morning," the watchdog said.
Hadi Abdullah of the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution, an opposition activist group, said the shelling of Baba Amr was extremely heavy.
"The situation is tragic. There are pregnant women, people with heart problems, diabetics and, foremost, wounded people who we cannot evacuate," he told AFP on the telephone from the beleaguered city.
"On Monday evening three activists entered the town by car transporting bread, baby milk and medicine," he said. "Their car was hit by a rocket. They all burned to death. "We told them it was dangerous but they said, 'If we don't help the residents who will.'" Abdullah said the humanitarian situation was worsening in Homs.
"The urgency is to evacuate the wounded. How can we let them die in cold blood?" "For one week, the dead have been buried in gardens, because even the cemeteries and graves are being targeted. People are crammed into shelters," he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday the EU backs the Arab League's "firm stance" on Syria and will support it through further sanctions, ahead of talks with the head of the pan-Arab body.
The EU supports the Arab League's action to try to end the bloodshed in Syria and will "also support (it) through further sanctions", Merkel told reporters, speaking alongside Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi. The 22-member pan-Arab bloc agreed Sunday to ask the United Nations to send a joint peacekeeping force to Syria, where activists say more than 6,000 people have died in a brutal crackdown on dissent since March. The embattled government of Assad swiftly rejected the initiative.
"What happens in Syria now is something that we in the Arab League should stop. The killing should stop," Arabi told reporters.
"The main focus of the resolution that was adopted three days ago... was to stop the killing right now."
The EU plans to adopt a new round of sanctions against Assad's regime on Feb. 27, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann.
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