Remind me which fucking side we're on this week. . .New York Times:
Deadly Attack on Syrian City Adds to Push for U.N. to Act
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
and ANTHONY SHADID
Published: February 4, 2012
UNITED NATIONS — A United Nations Security Council effort to end the violence in Syria collapsed in acrimony and a veto by Russia and China on Saturday, hours after the Syrian military attacked the ravaged city of Homs in what opposition leaders described as the bloodiest government assault in the nearly 11-month-old uprising.
The Security Council voted 13 to 2 in favor of a resolution backing an Arab League peace plan for Syria, but the measure was blocked by Russia and China, which opposed what they saw as a potential violation of Syria’s sovereignty.
Pressure had mounted on the Security Council to act as Syrian opposition leaders said more than 200 people were killed in the attack in Homs, and the White House accused Syria of having “murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children.”
While the casualties were impossible to confirm, and were denied by Syria, reports of the bloodshed drew widespread international condemnation, and moved the Security Council toward a vote on an Arab League peace plan, despite new objections by Russia.
President Obama condemned what he called “the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs,” saying in a statement that President Bashar al-Assad “has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community.”
The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said, “The massacre in Homs is a crime against humanity, and those responsible will have to answer for it.”
Protests broke out Saturday at Syrian embassies around the world, including in Egypt, Germany, Greece and Kuwait, and Tunisia expelled Syria’s ambassador there.
Security Council members met Saturday morning to try to resolve disagreements with Russia, Syria’s main ally, which had promised to veto any resolution that could open the way to foreign military intervention or insist on Mr. Assad’s removal.
But the resolution’s sponsors pushed the measure to a vote anyway, virtually daring Russia to exercise its veto and risk mounting international opprobrium for preventing action to stanch the escalating death toll in Syria. In the end, both Russia and China exercised vetoes.
Russia’s last-minute changes appeared to be another attempt to create equivalency between the Syrian government and the armed elements in the opposition, including by removing all the wording that detailed human rights violations by the Assad government.
Arab and Western ambassadors said they had compromised enough to meet the demands of Russia and other skeptics. The resolution that was defeated said that the Council “fully supports” the Arab League plan, which calls for Mr. Assad to cede power to his vice president and a unity government to lead Syria to democratic elections. But specific references to Mr. Assad’s ceding power and calls for a voluntary arms embargo and sanctions had been deleted from the Security Council resolution, and language barring outside military intervention was added.
Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said that Moscow still had two objections to the latest revised resolution: that it did not place sufficient blame for the violence on the opposition, and that it unrealistically demanded that the government withdraw its military forces back to their barracks.
He told a security conference in Munich that adopting the current resolution would risk “taking sides in a civil war.”
But Security Council members, citing the killings in Homs, pointedly disagreed.
“The scandal is not to act,” Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to the United Nations, said. “The scandal would be failure to act.”
There were contradictory reports on the violence from Homs, which has been largely inaccessible to journalists and difficult to reach by phone. But videos smuggled out of the city and reports by opposition activists described a harrowing barrage of mortar shells and gunfire that left hundreds more wounded in the city.
“It’s an unprecedented attack,” said Mohammed Saleh, an opposition activist from Homs who recently fled to a nearby town to escape the mounting strife.
The Syrian National Council, which has sought to act as an umbrella group for the opposition, said more than 260 people had been killed. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the toll in Khaldiya and the other Homs neighborhoods was 217. Both groups, along with other activists, said hundreds were wounded, though again, there was no specific number.
One opposition activist said the Syrian military suffered casualties, too.
“It’s a real massacre in every sense of the word,” said a resident in Khaldiya, who gave his name as Abu Jihad. “I saw bodies of women and children lying on roads, beheaded. It’s horrible and inhuman. It was a long night helping people get to hospitals.”
the restAl Arabiya:
Obama asks Assad to ‘step aside,’ condemns mass murder in Homs
President Barack Obama on Saturday accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government of murdering civilians in an “unspeakable assault” in the city of Homs, and demanded that Assad step down, a day after more than 400 civilians across the country.
“Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately,” Obama said in a statement.
Libyan militia accused of torturing to death ambassador to France
The U.S. president’s blunt condemnation came amid reports that more than 200 civilians were killed by Syrian forces in a night of shelling of residential areas in the flashpoint city of Homs.
More than 200 others were reported killed by security forces elsewhere in the country.
“Yesterday the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help,” Obama said.
“I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones,” he said.
Obama said the Security Council “now has an opportunity to stand against the Assad regime’s relentless brutality and to demonstrate that it is a credible advocate for the universal rights that are written into the U.N. Charter.”
Western diplomats at the United Nations said they were determined to vote Saturday on a resolution condemning the bloodshed in Syria, despite strong Russian objections.
Obama, meanwhile, pledged to work with the Syrians “toward building a brighter future,” for the country.
“Every government has the responsibility to protect its citizens, and any government that brutalizes and massacres its people does not deserve to govern,” he said.
“The Syrian regime’s policy of maintaining power by terrorizing its people only indicates its inherent weakness and inevitable collapse.
“Assad has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community,” Obama said.
The Syrian regime denied responsibility for Friday’s mass killing, blaming saying that “armed groups” for attacking civilians across the country.
Residents said Syrian forces began shelling the Khalidiya neighborhood at around 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Friday using artillery and mortars. They said at least 36 houses were completely destroyed with families inside.
“We were sitting inside our house when we started hearing the shelling. We felt the bombardment was falling on our heads,” said Waleed a resident of Khalidiya.
As Syrians rushed to aid victims and carried on with funerals in Homs, Assad forces continued with attacks, Al Arabiya correspondent said, adding that nail bombs were used during the shelling campaign against the city.
It was not immediately clear what had prompted Syrian forces to launch such an intense bombardment at a time when diplomats at the U.N. Security Council are discussing a draft resolution on an Arab League plan calling for Assad to give up power.
One of Libya's many new militias has been accused of detaining and apparently torturing to death a former ambassador to France, the latest allegation of brutality to mar the victorious revolutionaries' reputation since the fall of Col Muammar Gaddafi.
Human Rights Watch said that Omar Brebesh, a career diplomat who was cultural attache and then ambassador to France between 2004 to 2008, was brought in for routine questioning in Tripoli over his work for the former regime.
His body turned up at a hospital in Zintan, the town two hours' drive to the south-west that was a hub of last year's revolution, beaten, bruised and with some of its toenails removed.
The allegation will be particularly alarming because Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former dictator, is also being held in Zintan. Although the two international organisations allowed to visit him – Human Rights Watch and the International Committee of the Red Cross – both reported he was being well treated, the interim government has refused to disclose details of the process by which he will be put on trial.
The Zintan Brigade, one of the revolution's most powerful militias, has clashed with rivals in Tripoli. Most recently, members fought for control of the former beach compound of Saadi Gaddafi, another of the dictator's sons, with members of the Misurata Brigade, once seen as a Zintan ally in Libya's complex patchwork of regional rivalries.
It was a smaller Zintan-based outfit, called the Al-Shohada Ashura Militia, that demanded Mr Brebesh come in for questioning on January 19, his son, Ziad, told HRW. He was still working as a lawyer in the foreign ministry at the time.
The next day, his body was found by Ziad's brother Mohammed at a hospital in Zintan. Photographs of his body "revealed welts and extensive bruising on the abdomen, lacerations on both legs, and a large wound on the sole of the left foot," HRW said. "Some of his toenails appear to have been removed."
It said that, according to an official report, an unnamed suspect had confessed to the killing.
Mr Brebesh's is just the most high-profile documented case of the thousands of former regime associates and others allegedly detained and beaten by militias. The ICRC says it has evidence of at least 8,500 inmates, held by 60 separate militias.
The government has promised to bring the militias under control, but they have refused to hand in their weapons until there is a central security force that they say they can trust. The fact that the defence minister, Osama Jueili, is also head of the Zintan Brigade, suggests they are unlikely to be forced to do so any time soon.
The Misurata and Zintan Brigades were once seen as natural allies, as secular units based on cities near Tripoli hostile to its Islamist fighting forces. However, there are increasing signs of turf wars between them.
The battle between the two on Wednesday, which rumours said concerned anything from control of the beach to the fate of a girl kidnapped by the Misurata side, involved small arms and machine guns, but ended without anyone being killed, according to the authorities.
Riots over football deaths rage outside Cairo ministry
Protesters clashed with police outside Egypt's Interior Ministry for a third day on Saturday amid anger over the deaths of 74 people at a football match earlier this week. Officials say nine more people have died in the recent unrest.
AFP - Police fired tear gas and birdshot at protesters on Saturday in a third day of deadly clashes in Cairo, as anger at Egypt's ruling military boiled over after 74 people died in football-related violence.
The police responded after dozens of protesters threw stones at officers guarding the interior ministry hundreds of metres (yards) from the capital's iconic Tahrir Square.
Some protesters later intervened and stood between their comrades and police, ending the violence.
In the canal city of Suez, two people died from birdshot wounds sustained in clashes overnight, medics said. Hospital officials said nine people have been killed in Cairo and Suez since the violence erupted.
Five people were also wounded in overnight clashes outside police headquarters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, state media reported.
Marchers had taken to the streets nationwide on Friday to demand that Egypt's ruling generals cede power immediately after a night of violence in several cities.
The official MENA news agency on Saturday cited the health ministry as saying 2,532 people have been injured.
A reporter for the state-owned Nile News television station was wounded in the eye by birdshot, the channel reported.
The interior ministry said 211 policemen were wounded, including a general who lost an eye, and said 16 conscripts were wounded by birdshot.
Protesters, many of them organised supporters of Cairo's main football clubs known as the Ultras, held up a huge banner to the police that read: "Those who didn't deserve to die have died at the hands of those who don't deserve to live."
Many of the dead in Wednesday's football riot in the northern city of Port Said were thought to have been Al-Ahly supporters, set upon by partisans of the local Al-Masry side after the Cairo team lost 3-1.
The Ultras played a prominent role among anti-regime elements in the uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak a year ago, and commentators and citizens have suggested pro-Mubarak forces were behind the massacre, or at least complicit.
In the ongoing aftermath, rocks and stones flew in all directions on Friday as police vans in Cairo repeatedly charged demonstrators.
At one point, police clubbed protesters just metres away from the interior ministry. Across the street, a building housing the Tax Authority burned, state television reported.
A soldier injured outside the interior ministry on Thursday died in hospital on Friday, MENA said.
In a sign of increased insecurity, gunmen carrying automatic weapons stormed a police station in east Cairo, freeing detainees before torching it.
And in the Dokki neighbourhood, a group of men attacked a police station, taking weapons from the building.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) blamed the unrest on "foreign and domestic hands targeting the country."
In a statement on Facebook, it urged "all political and national forces of this great nation to take a national and historic role and intervene... to return stability."
Wednesday's clashes between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly fans marked one of the deadliest incidents in football history, and came amid claims by witnesses the security forces did little to prevent the it.
After the final whistle, victorious Al-Masry fans invaded the pitch, throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at Al-Ahly supporters, causing panic as players and fans fled in all directions, witnesses said.
State television reported on Saturday that the Egyptian Football Association's board of directors tendered their resignations.
On Friday, the prosecutor general slapped a travel ban on Samir Zaher, head of the association -- a day after he was sacked -- and on ex-Port Said governor Mohammed Abdullah, who quit after the clashes.
Egyptians have become increasingly angry with the military junta, which they accuse of failing to manage the country and of human rights abuses.
For months, they have taken to the streets to demand the ouster of the SCAF and its chief, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who was Mubarak's defence minister for two decades.
The SCAF has pledged to cede full powers to civilian rule when a president is elected by the end of June, but its opponents believe it intends to hold on to power behind the scenes after a transfer to civilian rule.
In the Sinai, the brief abduction on Friday of two US tourists and their guide by masked gunmen dealt a new blow to Egypt's already hard-hit tourism sector, despite their release unharmed several hours later.
The kidnappers intercepted their tour bus on its way from the historic St Catherine's monastery to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, security officials told AFP.