Arabs Back Syria Rights Condemnation

A U.N. resolution that would condemn Syria's human rights violations has received strong support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Morocco -- and its European sponsors are hoping more Arab nations will back it.

Germany, Britain and France circulated the draft resolution to the General Assembly's human rights committee on Thursday with the four Arab countries listed as co-sponsors.

It was a fresh sign of growing regional opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown on the 8-month-old uprising against his rule.

The European sponsors decided to press for the resolution after the 22-member Arab League on Wednesday suspended Damascus over the crackdown and threatened economic sanctions if the regime continued to violate an Arab-brokered peace plan. It gave Assad's government three days to halt the violence, which the U.N. estimates has killed more than 3,500 people, and accept an observer mission.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the draft resolution was the result of close consultations with the Arab League, and he urged the human rights committee to show "that the U.N. will not allow atrocities in Syria to go unchallenged."

Western diplomats said they hope the resolution will be put to a vote next Tuesday and Lyall Grant expressed hope that there will be "strong majority support" in the committee.

If the resolution is approved by the committee, it is virtually certain to be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly. While resolutions approved by the assembly are not legally binding, they do reflect world opinion.

The draft resolution calls on Syrian authorities to immediately end all violence and human rights violations. It also calls on Assad's government to implement the Arab League peace plan "in its entirety without further delay."

Germany, Britain and France turned to the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, after Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution they sponsored last month that threatened sanctions if Syria didn't immediately halt its crackdown.

It would have been the first legally binding resolution adopted by the council since Assad's military began using tanks and soldiers against protesters in mid-March.

Germany's U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig said a General Assembly human rights resolution "is no substitute for council action."

But Wittig said the sponsors also hope the assembly resolution "will show Assad just how isolated he is."

Human rights groups welcomed the draft resolution and urged its adoption.

"The General Assembly is finally given a chance to demonstrate that the global U.N. membership will not simply stand by while ordinary Syrians are being killed, arbitrarily detained and tortured," said Philippe Bolopion, United Nations director for Human Rights Watch.