Video: War 'closer' after Russia and China in Syria veto
British Foreign Secretary William Hague blamed Russia and China for Syria's slide "closer to civil war" as he urged the Arab League to take the lead in efforts to force President Bashar al-Assad from power.
Mr Hague said that in the wake of Russia and China vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning Mr Assad, Britain and its allies would work with Arab nations on further "diplomatic and economic steps" against the Syrian regime.
Warning that their double veto would only make "continued violence and instability" in Syria "more likely", Mr Hague said blood spilt would be "on their hands" and that the Syrian president would have been encouraged by their actions.
"Will he (Mr Assad) have been emboldened by the fact that Russia and China vetoed the resolution? Yes, I think so," Mr Hague said. The regime's intransigence, he added, was "tipping parts of Syria, some of the towns and cities of Syria, closer to something that begins to look like a civil war".
Russia launched a fierce defence of its decision to veto the resolution -- a move the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as a "travesty" -- blaming the West for its failure.
"The authors of the draft Syria resolution, unfortunately, did not want to undertake an extra effort and come to a consensus," the deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, said.
Moscow said it would send a delegation to Damascus tomorrow to ask Mr Assad to institute "much-needed democratic reforms".
However, Mr Hague said the Arab League should pursue their own peace plan without UN permission. "This is a doomed regime, as well as a murdering regime. There's no way it can get its credibility back."
After another 56 people were killed in Syria yesterday, Mrs Clinton said the US would increase diplomatic pressure on the regime to "convince those people around President Assad he must go".
Following the failure of the UN resolution, the Arab League is under pressure to find a way forward when it meets in Cairo next weekend. High on the list will be the renewal of sanctions.
Nabil al-Araby, the League's secretary-general, said it would continue to build support for its proposals for Mr Assad to cede powers to a deputy, form a unity government with the opposition and hold elections within six months. (© Daily Telegraph, London)