UN general assembly backs call for Assad to quit as Syrian president

Russia and China oppose resolution which backs Arab League plan calling on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down

The UN general assembly has approved a resolution backing an Arab League plan that calls on the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down and strongly condemns human rights violations in Syria by his regime.

The vote in the 193-member body was 137-12 with 17 abstentions.

Russia and China, who vetoed a similar resolution in the security council, voted against the resolution.

There are no vetoes in the general assembly and its resolutions are not legally binding, but they do reflect world opinion on major issues.

Western diplomats were hoping for a high yes vote to deliver a strong message to Assad to immediately end all human rights violations and attacks on civilians and hand power to his vice-president.

“Today the UN General Assembly sent a clear message to the people of Syria – the world is with you,” US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said in a statement.

“An overwhelming majority of UN member states have backed the plan put forward by the Arab League to end the suffering of Syrians. Bashar al-Assad has never been more isolated.”

Following the vote, British foreign secretary, William Hague said the resolution “sent a clear signal of the international community’s condemnation of the Syrian regime’s actions and intention to hold to account those responsible for the ongoing atrocities.”

He added: “The message is unambiguous. The violence must stop immediately. President Assad and the Syrian regime must heed the call of the international community and allow a peaceful political transition to resolve the crisis.”

The resolution said the assembly “fully supports” the Arab League plan and urges UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy to Syria. It also condemns Assad’s remine for “widespread and systematic violations of human rights” and calls for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from besieged towns and cities.

Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari rejected the resolution, telling the assembly that it was part of a plot to overthrow Assad and allow the “terrorist” opposition to take over the country.

“We have deep concerns vis-a-vis the real intentions of the countries that have co-sponsored this draft, particularly that these countries are leading a political and media aggression against Syria,” he said.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the resolution “reflects the worrying trend … to attempt to isolate the Syrian leadership, to reject any contact with it and to impose an external formula for a political settlement.”

He said before the vote that a large majority in favor of the resolution would increase the pressure on Assad to comply with the Arab League plan, and would highlight the isolation of Russia and China on the issue.

Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Bolivia were among other countries that opposed the resolution.

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from David Batty

via http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/16/un-general-assembly-assad-syria

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