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Turkey, EU nations criticize veto of UN resolution vs Syria, call for more sanctions

By Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

ANKARA, Turkey – European countries criticized Russia and China on Wednesday for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that threatened sanctions against Syria if it didn’t halt its crackdown on civilians.

Turkey’s prime minister said his nation and others would respond by imposing more sanctions of their own against Syria.

Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed what would have been the first legally binding Security Council resolution against Syria since President Bashar Assad‘s military began using tanks and soldiers to attack pro-democracy protesters in mid-March. The U.N. estimates the crackdown has led to more than 2,700 deaths.

Russia and China both said they oppose the crackdown but that sanctions wouldn’t help resolve the crisis. The U.N. vote was 9-2 with four abstentions — India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon.

On Wednesday, Germany, France, Britain, Denmark and the EU joined Turkey in denouncing the veto, with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe sounding outraged.

Juppe denounced Assad as a “dictator who is massacring his people” and vowed support for Syrians trying to overthrow the head of the former French colony. Juppe’s strongly worded English-language statement was highly unusual.

The EU and the U.S. have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Assad and his regime, including a ban on the import of Syrian oil. Most of Syria’s oil exports had gone to Europe. Now Damascus is forced to look for buyers in the east.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a speech in South Africa on Wednesday to say that Turkey and other nations would press ahead with sanctions.

“Turkey and either some or all of the European Union nations, and who knows which others, will take steps,” the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Erdogan as saying. “It won’t stop our sanctions.”

Germany sharply criticized the veto by Russia and China, with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle saying it was a “really sad day for international law and for human rights, too.”

Westerwelle said Western nations would maintain pressure on Assad and that European countries are preparing an eighth package of sanctions against Syria.

At the U.N. on Tuesday, the European sponsors of the resolution tried to avoid a veto by watering down the language on sanctions three times, to the point where the word “sanctions” was taken out entirely. But that failed.

“We have absolutely no understanding for the fact the U.N. Security Council was unable to agree in New York, even on a very much weakened statement,” Westerwelle said in Berlin.

“We will — not just in Europe, but also with our partners — not only keep up the pressure on the Assad regime, but increase it further if the killing and violence against peaceful demonstrators continues,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told a rally of his governing Conservative Party in that Beijing and Moscow were wrong to oppose the proposed resolution.

“The decision of Russia and China to veto this resolution and to side with a brutal regime rather than the people of Syria is deeply mistaken,” Hague said in England.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said through her spokesman that the bloc would now work to increase international pressure on Assad’s regime.

Denmark’s new foreign minister, Villy Soevndahl, said: “The Assad regime’s assault on civilians and brutal violation of basic human rights is utterly unacceptable.” He said the international community must find a way to speak in a single voice to maintain pressure on Assad and his government.

Turkey already has imposed an arms embargo on Syria, and Erdogan is expected to announce new sanctions on the neighbour country later this week when he visits camps near the border where some 7,500 Syrians have sought refuge from Assad’s brutal crackdown.

“Out of necessity our package of sanctions will come into effect,” Erdogan said. He did not provide details, but Turkish leaders have said that the measures would punish Syria’s leadership, not its people.

Turkey is an important trade partner for Syria, and Erdogan had cultivated a close friendship with Assad. But Turkish leaders have grown increasingly frustrated with Damascus over its refusal to halt the crackdown on the opposition protests.

The military has announced eight days of exercises in Hatay province, which borders Syria, starting Wednesday, to test the armed forces’ mobilization capability and communication among various state organizations. The military has described the drills as routine, but analysts said they were intended to increase pressure on Syria.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/russia-china-veto-security-council-resolution-threatening-un-223526752.html

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Is the West scared of Iran??

IAEA votes to censure Iran over nuclear cover-up

By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog voted Friday to rebuke Iran for building a uranium enrichment plant in secret but Tehran rejected the move as “intimidation” which would poison its negotiations with world powers.

The resolution was the first by the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against Iran in almost four years, and a sign of spreading alarm over Tehran’s failure to dispel fears it has clandestine plans to build nuclear bombs.

It passed by a 25-3 margin with six abstentions, smoothed by rare backing from Russia and China, which have blocked global attempts to isolate Iran, a trade partner for both, in the past.

But it was far from clear whether the West could now coax Moscow and Beijing to join in biting sanctions against Iran, something they have long prevented at the U.N. Security Council.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Iran should “react with full seriousness to the signal contained in the resolution … and to ensure full cooperation with the agency.”

Moscow and Beijing’s support is seen as vital to the success of external pressure on Iran to rein in its nuclear activity and open it up to unfettered IAEA inspections and investigations.

The vote reflected exasperation with Iran’s retreat from an IAEA-brokered draft deal to provide it with fuel for a medical nuclear reactor if it agreed to part with its enriched uranium, which could be turned into bomb material if further refined.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said major powers would pursue harsher sanctions against Iran if it ignored the vote.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband “should send a very clear warning to Iran that it is not going to be able to divide the international community,” Miliband told Reuters in an interview at a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS TIME RUNNING OUT

The resolution urged Iran to clarify the original purpose of the Fordow enrichment site, hidden inside a mountain bunker, stop construction and confirm there are no more hidden sites.

Iran said those demands were beyond its legal obligations.

The United States said the IAEA vote showed an urgent need for Iran to address the growing “deficit of confidence” over its nuclear intentions. Time is running out, the White House said, and Iran would be responsible for the consequences.

The measure won blanket Western backing. Cuba, Malaysia and Venezuela, prominent in a developing nation bloc that includes Iran, voted “no,” while Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey abstained. Azerbaijan missed the ballot.

Diplomats said the large number of abstentions indicated important developing states were souring on Iran over its nuclear defiance, particularly its hold-up of the fuel deal.

But, they said, the IAEA resolution could lead Iranian hardliners to seize on it as excuse to restrict inspections further and re-freeze talks, killing off the reactor fuel plan.

The Islamic Republic has counted on Non-Aligned Movement solidarity to help prevent a united front against it.

Israel sees Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat given Iranian comments calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and has not ruled out military strikes against the sites. It said the IAEA resolution was of “great importance.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry called for the international community to ensure the decision bore a “practical significance by setting a timetable to require the imposition of stiff sanctions against Iran in response to any violations.”

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying its atomic energy program is purely for peaceful purposes. But its record of clandestine nuclear work and curbs on IAEA inspections have stoked suspicions and a seven-year standoff with world powers.

Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh called the resolution a “hasty and undue” step devoid of legal basis.

IRAN SAYS WILL IGNORE RESOLUTION

“The great nation of Iran will never bow to pressure and intimidation vis-a-vis its inalienable right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” he said.

“We will not implement any word of it because this is a politically motivated gesture against the Iranian nation.”

He said Iran would continue to allow basic inspections at its nuclear sites but could stop making “voluntary gestures” of extra cooperation such as when it allowed widened surveillance at its rapidly expanding main enrichment complex at Natanz.

Soltanieh said the resolution would also ruin the atmosphere for further talks with the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China launched on October 1 in Geneva, where the reactor fuel plan was agreed in principle.

“Such gestures … are certainly destructive. They spoil the existing cooperative environment. But neither sanctions nor the threat of military attacks can interrupt our peaceful nuclear activities even for a second,” he said.

Iran admitted Fordow’s existence in September, at least two years into its construction, shocking IAEA inspectors. Western diplomats said Iran was forced to come clean after learning the site had been detected by their spy services.

Iran had assured the IAEA last year it was not hiding any nuclear-related activities despite rules that it be transparent.

Fordow’s emergence fanned suspicions there are more secret sites intended to produce atom bombs, since experts said the plant’s capacity was too small to feed a civilian nuclear power plant, but big enough to make weapons material.

Iran’s main, larger enrichment plant, at Natanz, was exposed by Iranian opposition exiles in 2002.

Iran has told the IAEA it developed the Fordow site in secret as a backup for other, known facilities, in case they were bombed by Israel.

The last IAEA board resolution against Iran was in February 2006, when governors referred Tehran’s dossier to the U.N. Security Council over its refusal to shelve enrichment.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/091127/world/international_us_nuclear_iaea_vote