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article imagePressure mounting on Syria's Assad to stop the violence

By Joan Firstenberg     Dec 2, 2011 in World
Beirut - The International isolation of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad increased Friday, as Royal Dutch Shell said it is shutting down its operations in that fractured country and the U.N. Human Rights Council condemned him.
The decision by Royal Dutch Shell to cease operations is in step with new European Union sanctions imposed against Damascus following President Assad's violent crackdown on his civilians following the recent popular unrest.
The Vancouver Sun reports that an opposition group says in the most recent bloodshed, Syrian army defectors killed eight Air Force intelligence personnel in an attack on their base in the north of the country.
Experts say this incident may suggest that armed deserters are turning away from defending civilian protesters against the violent repression exhibited by Assad's security forces to an offensive of ambushes and roadside bombs, increasing the likelihood of all-out civil war.
Western and Arab countries have been doing their best to press Assad into carrying out his assurances to stop the violence and bloodshed by imposing punitive sanctions on his nation.
A Royal Dutch Shell spokesman had this to say.
"Our main priority is the safety of our employees. We hope the situation improves quickly for all Syrians."
Reuters reports that the Shell decision to withdraw from Syria comes on the heels of a condemnation of that country's cruel crackdown by the 47-member U.N. human rights forum which overwhelmingly voted Friday to adopt the EU resolution condemning the Syrian government's "gross and systematic" rights violations. Russia and China were among four countries voting against it.
US ambassador Eileen Chamberlain told Reuters,
"The evidence we have seen leaves no doubt about the complicity of Syrian authorities and provides a very strong basis for accountability to go forward in other institutions where that is their mandate."
As for whether this could mean charges against Syria in the International Criminal Court, Chamberlain responded,
"Absolutely, including the ICC if the Security Council chooses to refer this matter."
Although China and the Soviet Union voted against it, all five Arab members, including Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, backed the text, a signal to Assad that his neighbors are not with him, which may provide more pressure than criticism from the West.
But the U.N. Security council will be stopped in any attempt to take further actions to stop Assad because of Russia and China's refusal to join in. Envoys from both nations were at the meeting Friday to warn against external intervention.
While Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said,
"Those who trample over human rights in this way must reckon with ostracism and sanctions. It is high time that the U.N. Security Council sends an unambiguous signal."
Russia's Valery Loshchinin told the Council session,
"We would like to warn against illegal interference by outside forces even under the pretext of protecting human rights. This will have serious and unforeseen consequences. We hear that the conflict in Syria continues to be fuelled by outside forces, armed and terrorist groups being organised and supplied with weapons and money from abroad."
The Loshchinin comments appear to be closely alligned with Mr. Assad's view of the conflict.
Meanwhile, U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay explained to the group that more than 4,000 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown against protesters that began in March, and more than 14,000 people are believed to be in detention.
"In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people. All acts of murder, torture and other forms of violence must be immediately stopped."
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