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UN envoy likens London riots to Syrian unrest

Despite admitting to security force mistakes, Syria’s regime remains defiant in the face of international condemnation.

This photo was taken during a government-organised media tour in Hama, Syria yesterday during which troops shouted pro-Assad slogans.
This photo was taken during a government-organised media tour in Hama, Syria yesterday during which troops shouted pro-Assad slogans.
Image: Bassem Tellawi/AP/Press Association Images

SYRIA’S ENVOY TO the United Nations provoked fury among diplomats in New York yesterday by comparing the unrest in Syria to the riots which engulfed London this week.

Following a meeting of the UN Security Council yesterday, Bashar Jaafari criticised Western nations for accepting the British government’s condemnation of rioters, while denouncing President Bashar Assad for calling anti-government protestors “gang members”.

Al Jazeera reports that the UN ambassador accused international powers of hypocrisy and arrogance before claiming that 500 Syrian security forces have been killed by anti-government groups in Syria.

Jaafari remained defiant that the crackdown in his country was not on peaceful protestors but on armed groups and terrorist organisations.

The comments were dismissed as “ludicrous” by the UK’s ambassador to the UN Philip Parham.

‘Manipulation’

According to The Telegraph, Jaafari also criticised European leaders for manipulating the truth and hiding important facts about what is happening in Syria.

Continuing his denunciation of Western powers, Jaafari protested against the description of Assad’s government as a “regime”. He argued that as Assad was democratically elected, he is equal to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The comments from Jaafari came after Assad told Government representatives from Brazil, India and South Africa his security forces had made “some mistakes” when dealing with protestors.

India’s UN mission said that Assad acknowledged that errors were made in the initial stages of the unrest but “efforts were underway to prevent their recurrence”.

However, Assad’s failure to follow up on such promises or to implement any meaningful reforms in the past five months has led to clear indications from the US that it is ready to stiffen its stance towards him.

“Better off ” without him

Speaking at a news briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the US President believes that Syria will be better off without President Assad.

“The international community is increasingly speaking with one voice on Syria in unified condemnation of Assad’s brutality against his people,” said Carney, adding that Assad has lost legitimacy.

Indicating that a stronger response is imminent, the press secretary said it is important now that Washington backs up its words with actions. Pressure on the Syrian regime is increasing every day, he said.

No timeline is known for when Obama could make a statement calling on Assad to stand down but the Guardian reports that the US has evidence of crimes in Syria and is ready to use it to step up pressure.

Death toll

Back on the ground in Syria, Al Jazeera reports that although the army presence remains strong across the country, demonstrators are still taking to the streets.

Witnesses told the news agency today that tanks have moved back into Hama despite claims from the State-controlled news agency SANA that army units left the central city yesterday after “restoring stability and security”.

Security forces have also reportedly stormed two northwestern towns near the Turkish border.

According to activist group the Local Co-ordinating Committees of Syria, 22 people were killed yesterday, including 18 in Homs.

Rights groups believe that up to 1,700 people have been killed since the violent crackdown began in mid-March. It is impossible to independently verify reports from Syria as foreign journalists have been denied access into the country.

More: Assad’s troops not backing down despite heavy diplomatic pressure >

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