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Clinton urges tougher UN pressure on Syria

By Jamey Keaten

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, April 19 2012 4:11 p.m. MDT

U.S Foreign Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, France's foreign minister Alain Juppe, center, and Qatari counterpart Sheik Hamad Bin Jabor A-Thani, right, pose during a group photo in Paris Thursday, April 19, 2012. Juppe said two main questions will be on the table at the Paris meeting, attended by Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, U.N. Security Council member Morocco and Qatar, plus Western powers like the U.S., Britain and Germany.

Jacques Brinon, Associated Press

PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Thursday for the U.N. Security Council to adopt an arms embargo and other tough measures against Syria to try to halt 13 months of bloodshed, but she acknowledged such diplomatic actions would likely be vetoed.

Clinton's comments to Western and Arab diplomats from the so-called "Friends of Syria" group came as the head of the United Nations accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of failing to honor a peace plan that went into effect a week ago.

In a transcript of her remarks on the State Department's website, Clinton stopped short of calling for outside military intervention in Syria — something there is little to no foreign appetite for — but said it was time to impose more consequential measures on Assad's regime.

"We have to keep Assad off balance by leaving options on the table," she told the gathering of 16 top diplomats.

Clinton's address suggested the U.S. wanted the "Friends of Syria" group to more actively consider contingency plans if the peace plan by U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan fell apart. Although U.S. policy has amounted to an acknowledgment that Assad is unlikely to be dislodged, the U.N. resolution Clinton seeks could strengthen Syrian rebels fighting his regime.

"We need to start moving very vigorously in the Security Council for a Chapter 7 sanctions resolution, including travel, financial sanctions, an arms embargo, and the pressure that that will give us on the regime to push for compliance with Kofi Annan's six-point plan," Clinton said, referring to a resolution under the U.N. Charter that would be militarily enforceable.

Any attempt to push for U.N. sanctions on Syria would likely meet resistance from Syrian allies Russia and China, which hold vetoes in the Security Council. Moscow and Beijing have already twice shielded Syria from U.N. sanctions over Assad's crackdown on a popular uprising that is estimated to have left 9,000 people dead and led refugees to pour into neighboring countries.

Clinton said she'd laid out the case for Security Council resolve earlier Thursday to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whom she said "has recognized that we are not in a static situation but a deteriorating one."

At the Paris meeting, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the "Friends of Syria" group believes Annan's plan is the "last chance" for Syria to avoid civil war. But he didn't rule out the possibility of tougher action at the Security Council, including "in the direction that Madame Clinton indicated."

The prospect of military action, however faint, remained in some minds in Paris. Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine El-Othmani of Morocco, whose country holds a Security Council seat, said: "We hope the Kofi Annan plan works to avoid this (possible) military intervention."

Earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Syria was not honoring the cease-fire, which took effect last week, and that violence was escalating. Syrian activists said regime forces took control of a southern town and shot at activists in another soon after international observers left.

"Despite the government's agreement to cease all violence, we still see deeply troubling evidence that it continues," Ban said. "The past few days, in particular, have brought reports of renewed and escalating violence, including the shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by government forces and attacks by armed groups."

Ban also acknowledged "the increasingly difficult humanitarian situation within Syria and along its borders." He said about 230,000 people had been displaced, and an estimated 1 million were in need.

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