Fighting Rocks Damascus; Sanctions Fail at U.N.


Washington, July 20 — Explosions rocked Damascus for the second day in a row as Syrian troops fought opposition fighters for control of the capital. In the meantime, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that threatened Syrian officials with sanctions unless they curtailed violence in the country.

On Thursday, rebel fighters attacked the Damascus police headquarters, killing and wounding dozens of security personnel and militiamen, according to an opposition activist. Also on Thursday, anti-government forces seized all four border crossings with Iraq and one into Turkey and claimed to have captured a pocket of Damascus.

A day earlier, opposition forces assassinated the minister of defense, the deputy minister of defense, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security adviser and other security officials as they met in a government building.

The international community, hoping to take measures to end the killings in Syria, for the third time put forth a U.N. resolution designed to pressure al-Assad and stop the mass civilian casualties in an uprising that haskilled more than 17,000 people. But China and Russia again used their veto power as permanent U.N. Security Council members to block the measure.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, Russia and China were condemned at the meeting for their veto. Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said the two countries are “failing the people of Syria. The effect of their actions is to protect a brutal regime.”

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called the previous two vetoes by China and Russia "very destructive,” with this one even more dangerous.

Syria is a major trading partner for both Russia and China, which have said they desire a “more balanced” resolution that calls on all sides to halt the violence. Grant also accused the two vetoing countries of putting “their national interests ahead of the lives of millions of Syrians,” and relying on al-Assad’s “broken promises.”

Ahead of the vote on Wednesday, President Barack Obama telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to encourage Syria to vote for the resolution, the White House said in a statement. Instead, Russia put forward a resolution of its own that “strongly urges all parties in Syria to cease immediately all armed violence in all its forms.”

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