Clinton urges tougher UN steps against Syria

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for tough United Nations sanctions against Syria in order to force President Bashir al-Assad’s regime to abide by a ceasefire aimed at halting 13 months of bloodshed.

Addressing a meeting of top diplomats from the “Friends of Syria” group in Paris on Thursday, Clinton suggested moving “very vigorously” towards a Chapter Seven sanctions resolution, including travel and financial restrictions as well as a global arms embargo, the Associated Press reports.

The Friends of Syria group includes Western and Arab nations, but neither Russia nor China – who have blocked previous attempts at introducing UN sanctions – are members.

A Chapter Seven resolution would provide for the use of force if required, although Clinton stopped short of calling for military intervention in Syria and acknowledged that any UN measure would likely be vetoed by Russia and China, meaning states would have to seek further diplomatic and economic sanctions in the meantime.

Nevertheless, she insisted that tougher measures needed to be imposed upon the Assad regime.

“We have to keep Assad off balance by leaving options on the table,” she said, according to CNN, adding:

“I think we are all here out of a sense of great frustration and outrage over what we see occurring in Syria. We also are hopeful that despite the evidence thus far, the mission of Kofi Annan can begin to take root, starting with monitors being sent, but remembering that it’s a six-point plan and that it is not a menu of options. It has to be a complete acceptance by the Syrian government of all six points.”

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Thursday’s meeting in Paris came as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said cessation of violence in Syria was “clearly incomplete” and accused government forces of failing to comply with a pledge from Damascus to withdraw troops from cities and halt fighting – key elements in the six-point peace place proposed by international envoy Annan.

An advance team of UN monitors is currently in Syria to observe the week-old truce in the country, and Ban has called on the Security Council to authorize the swelling of the mission’s ranks from 30 unarmed observers to 300. The Council will make a decision on the scale of the mission next week.

At the Paris meeting Clinton said she had met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier Thursday, who had recognized that the situation in Syria was “deteriorating,” according to the Agence France Presse.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told reporters that the failure of Annan’s peace plan “would lead to civil war,” saying: “Time is against us. We need to act quickly. Otherwise we’ll have to see what other options are available to the Security Council and to the international community.”

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