Pressure on Assad as West plans Syria sanctions

UNITED NATIONS, Tim Witcher- Pressure mounted on Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday as Western powers prepared new UN sanctions and peace envoy Kofi Annan said Iran might support a political transition.
At the United Nations, diplomats said Britain, France, Germany and the United States were drawing up a motion that would impose tough measures on Damascus if Assad fails to implement Annan's plan.

Pressure on Assad as West plans Syria sanctions
Annan said the motion should include "clear consequences" for the regime if it fails to act and reported that even Syria's staunch ally Iran and nervous neighbor Iraq now "support the idea of a political transition."
The international moves to end the 16-month-old conflict came as the regime continued to crumble from within, with Assad's ambassador to Baghdad joining a small but growing list of officials that have defected to the opposition.
Syria has been gripped by a vicious civil conflict since March last year, when the regime attempted to brutally suppress a pro-democracy revolt and triggered a broader uprising by armed insurgent groups.
Western powers and Syria's Arab and Turkish neighbors have called for Assad to stand down and allow a negotiated political settlement, but Damascus' ally Russia and thus far Iran have stood by him.
The regime and the opposition publicly accept Annan's plan, which has seen unarmed observers deployed to monitor a theoretical ceasefire, but fighting has raged on and rights monitors estimate that 17,000 Syrians have died.
"The Council is now discussing what the next steps should be and what action they can take," Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy, told journalists, after privately briefing the 15-member UN Security Council by videophone from Geneva.
"We should hear something in the next few days."
Annan was just back from a tour of the region in which he met Assad and Iranian and Iraqi leaders. He said he and Assad had discussed the nomination of an interlocutor to negotiate with the opposition on behalf of the regime.
"In all frankness, yes we discussed it. He did offer a name. I indicated that I wanted to know a bit about the individual," Annan said, without giving any further details.
Annan's briefing was not open to the press, but afterwards UN envoys said the Western powers would move "within hours" to draw up a resolution.
The draft will lay the ground for a new Security Council battle over Syria in coming days, as veto-wielding permanent member Russia has proposed its own text with no threat of measures against Assad.
The Council must pass a new resolution on the conflict by July 20 when the mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria ends.
Britain's UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said Annan urged "Security Council members to put aside their national interests and to put joint and sustained pressure on both parties with clear consequences for non-compliance."
He said the resolution would include "a clear threat of sanctions if the regime fails in its first step of stopping the use of heavy weapons within a fixed timeline."
"We can't wait weeks and months," said France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud. "Every week hundreds of Syrians are dying, so the council has to act."
On Tuesday, Russia circulated a resolution which rolls over the observers' mandate for three months, but makes no threat of concrete measures.
Western nations have already rejected the Russian resolution.
"The Russian draft resolution is insufficient in that it does not give Mr Annan the means to act -- it does not act under Chapter VII and does not announce sanctions," said Araud.
Russia's position has angered the Syrian opposition, the leaders of which visited Moscow this week to try to persuade the Kremlin to drop its support for Assad's regime, Moscow's key Middle East ally.
"We reject the Russian policy -- however it is presented -- as this policy of supporting the regime is allowing the violence to continue," Abdel Basset Sayda, head of the exiled Syrian National Council, said after the talks.
"The Syrian people continue to suffer because of the position of Russia at the UN Security Council," he said. Russia has used its veto to block two earlier attempted resolutions against Assad's regime.
"As a result, the killings and shootings continue and the Syrian regime is using these weapons that Russia gave to Syria against its own people."
Violence across Syria killed 52 people on Wednesday, 23 of them civilians, 18 soldiers and 11 rebels, according to a Britain-based rights watchdog, which added that 82 people had died the previous day.
It also reported an attack on a bus transporting troops in the northwestern province of Idlib that left as many as 11 dead.

Wednesday, July 11th 2012
Tim Witcher

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