At U.N. headquarters in New York, numerous world leaders were slamming the Assad regime in Syria -- and condemning Russia and China for vetoing a new Security Council resolution aimed at halting the violence. Britain's U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant said the two countries are "failing the people of Syria." Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said those two countries' previous two vetoes were "very destructive," and that this latest one is "even more dangerous and deplorable."
Ambassadors from Western countries who put forth a United Nations resolution on Syria reacted strongly on Thursday after Russia and China vetoed the measure that would have threatened Syrian authorities with sanctions if they did not stop using heavy weapons against an uprising and withdraw troops from towns and cities.
It was the third time that Russia, a key ally of the Syrian government, and China have used their veto power to block U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to put pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and halt the violence in the 16-month conflict that has killed thousands of people.
The vetoed resolution, which would have extended a U.N. observer mission in Syria for 45 days, received 11 votes in favor, while South Africa and Pakistan abstained.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the council he was "appalled" by Russia and China's vetoes.
[Mark Lyall Grant, British Ambassador]:
"More than 14,000 innocent Syrians have been killed since Russia and China first vetoed our efforts to stem the violence in October last year. Since then the regime has intensified its use of heavy weapons in population centers, including the use of artillery and helicopter gunships. More than 100 civilians are being killed every day."
His French counterpart, Gerard Araud, said proponents of strong U.N. action on Syria would not be dissuaded. He also listed what he said was the price Syria is paying for Russia and China's continued resistance to stronger action against the Syrian regime.
[Gerard Araud, French Ambassador]:
"I had hoped not to have to go through this ghastly list. By October 4th, 2011, oppression in Syria had already claimed 3,000 lives. Russia and China vetoed the council's action for the first time. On the 4th of February 2012, 6,000 Syrians had been cut down by the regime and Russia and China exercised their second veto on the council's action. Today, July 19th, we now count 17,000 dead -- men, women, children. We mourn their memory alongside the Syrian people. And Russia and China have just for the third time exercised their veto of the council's action."
U.S. ambassador Susan Rice was also strongly critical of the role Russia and China played in blocking stronger Security Council action.
[Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador]:
"The Security Council has failed utterly in its most important task on its agenda this year. This is another dark day in Turtle Bay. One can only hope that one day, before too many thousands more die, that Russia and China will stop protecting Assad and allow this council to play its proper role at the center of the international response to the crisis in Syria."
The 15-member council still has time to negotiate another resolution on the fate of the unarmed mission before its initial 90-day mandate expires at midnight Friday.
Britain, France, Germany and the United States proposed in the vetoed resolution that international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan be placed under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows the council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.
Western council members have said they are talking about a threat of sanctions on Syria, not military intervention. Their vetoed resolution had contained a specific threat of sanctions if Syrian authorities did not stop using heavy weapons and withdraw troops from towns and cities within 10 days.