Syria, facing mounting global pressure over its decisions to move tanks into cities against its own citizens and to shoot unarmed demonstrators, tried to defend its record against blunt denunciations from the United States and others on Tuesday at the United Nations, where the Security Council is struggling to forge a collective response.
Ambassador Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian envoy, repeated the government’s claim that the unrest at home was the work of as yet unidentified foreign agitators trying to undermine Syria’s stability and that armed infiltrators were responsible for the shooting of protesters.
“This unrest and riots in some of their aspects have hidden agendas,” Mr. Jaafari told reporters. “Some armed groups take advantage of the demonstrations; they get within the demonstrators and start shooting on the military men and the security forces. This is why there are many casualties.”
Mr. Jaafari also defended President Bashar Assad’s record, saying that more political reforms were coming on the heels of Mr. Assad’s decision to lift the emergency law.
“President Assad is a reformer himself, and he should be given the chance to fulfill his mission in reforming the political life in the country,” he said.
Government opponents openly mock both assertions. Syrians, not foreign agitators, are demanding basic freedoms that have been denied them for the 40 years in which the Assad family has run the country, they say. Although Mr. Assad, 45, promised reform when he inherited the presidency from his father 11 years ago, he has put none in place — instead, they say, the government has strangled any nascent reform movement by jailing its leaders for years.
But efforts by the Security Council to issue the mildest of statements criticizing Syria was postponed until at least Wednesday afternoon. Several member states — Russia, China and Lebanon — seemed firmly opposed, diplomats said, although the ambassadors of China and Lebanon would only note that further discussion was scheduled.
Russia has been adamant that the use of force in Libya far exceeds the Security Council resolution that authorized efforts to protect Libyan civilians; statements by its senior leaders indicate that Russia will not contemplate anything similar elsewhere in the restive region. Diplomats from other countries also noted certain differences over military actions in Libya.
While the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, threatened to search from alley to alley to root out opposition, Mr. Assad has spoken of reform in Syria and blamed outsiders for the unrest. That stance is influencing some members, diplomats said, although not all.
“The outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end — and now,” the United States Ambassador, Susan E. Rice, told reporters. “The Syrian government’s actions to repeal the decade’s old emergency law and allow for peaceful demonstrations were clearly not serious, given the continued violent repression against protesters.”
Ms. Rice repeated the Obama administration’s contention that Iran was helping Syria to suppress the demonstrations.
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, reiterated his demand for an international investigation into the hundreds of deaths in Syria.
“I condemn, utterly, the continuing violence against peaceful demonstrators, most particularly the use of tanks and live fire that have killed and injured hundreds of people,” Mr. Ban said.
Mr. Jaafari belittled the idea of any investigation other than one already initiated by the Syrian government.
Other world leaders also weighed in on Tuesday.
In Britain, the foreign minister, William Hague, said the European Union was considering sanctions against Syria. “Its government can still choose to bring about the radical reform which alone can bring about peace and stability,” he told the House of Commons. “Or it can choose ever more violent repression.” NYT
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