European nations and the United States circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution Tuesday seeking an arms embargo and other sanctions aimed at stopping the Syrian government's continued crackdown on dissident protesters.
But the supporters faced immediate opposition from veto-wielding Russia. Asked whether it was the right time to slap sanctions on Bashar Assad's regime, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters, "No. We don't think so."
The draft resolution calls for an asset freeze against 23 key Syrian figures including Bashar Assad, his younger brother, Maher, who is believed to be in command of much of the bloody crackdown, and his millionaire cousin, Rami Makhlouf, who controls the mobile phone network and other lucrative enterprises in Syria and has been the target of many protesters' rage.
It also calls for an asset freeze against two companies controlled by Makhlouf -- Bena Properties and Al Mashreq Investment -- and the Military Housing Establishment and Syrian General Intelligence Directorate. The resolution would also impose a travel ban on 21 individuals including Makhlouf, but not Assad or his younger brother.
British Deputy Ambassador Philip Parham told reporters after a closed council session Tuesday afternoon that the draft backed by his country, France, Germany, Portugal and the U.S. also calls for an end to violence against protesters.
"There are things they can do that can stop the killing, release detainees, and allow access" for humanitarian aid, Parham said. "The focus of the resolution is to apply pressure to achieve that."
Parham said the text also contains "a clear call for accountability," and its supporters hope that the final version will reflect the U.N. Human Rights Council's call Tuesday for Syria to cooperate with an international probe into possible crimes against humanity.
"The solution lies in a Syrian-led political process," he said.
The British envoy said council members would now consult with their governments and possible action could come in "the next few days."
"We want to allow people time to look at it carefully and consult with capitals," Parham said. "But then we do want to move, if we can, as quickly as possible."
"I congratulate the Human Rights Council for its work to create an international independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and to make clear the world's concern for the Syrian people," said Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State in a statement Tuesday.
"Today, the international community joined together to denounce the Syrian regime's horrific violence. The United States worked closely with countries from every part of the world - more than 30 members of the Human Rights Council, including key Arab members -- to establish this mandate," she added.
"The Commission of Inquiry will investigate all violations of international human rights law by Syrian Authorities and help the international community address the serious human rights abuses in Syria and ensure that those responsible are held to account," Clinton continued.
"There are credible reports that government forces in Syria have committed numerous gross human rights violations, including torture and summary executions in their crackdown against opposition members. The most recent attack by Syrian security forces on protesters in Homs is as deplorable as it is sadly representative of the Asad regime's utter disregard for the Syrian people," she said.
"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the slaughter, arrest, and torture of peaceful protesters taking place in Syria. We continue to urge nations around the world to stand with the Syrian people in their demands for a government that represents the needs and will of its people and protects their universal rights. For the sake of the Syrian people, it is time for Assad to step aside and leave this transition to the Syrians themselves," she said.