China, Russia Angry Over US Comments on Syria

Posted Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 7:05 am

China and Russia have responded angrily after the United States criticized their stance on Syria and the European Union imposed new sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Monday China will not accept U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's denunciation of other countries. Last week, Clinton called the actions by China and Russia on the Syrian conflict “despicable.”

An influential Chinese state newspaper, the People's Daily, said the United States has no right to speak for the Arab people.

“The comments by the mentioned American person are totally unacceptable for us. On the Syria question, China has always maintained a fair and objective stance.''

Also Monday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin defended the joint veto by Russia and China of U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Syria for its military crackdown against an anti-government uprising.

Russia and China have repeatedly blocked the Security Council from taking action against Syria's government.

In another development Monday, EU foreign ministers imposed sanctions on Syria's central bank and froze the assets of several Syrian government officials.

The bloc has already blacklisted nearly 150 Syrian entities and people.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong, also welcomed Sunday's referendum on a new constitution for Syria, which has been rejected by the United States and other Western governments as a farce.

“We hope that this referendum is conducive to pushing forward Syria's reform and progress, opens the door for political dialogue, and meets Syrian people's justified demands for the change and protection of their interests. We hope that the various sides in Syria can make efforts to ease the tense situation as early as possible.''

Hong said China hopes the referendum, which would open the door to political opposition parties, will ease a conflict that has seen thousands of civilians killed by Syrian security forces.

However, opposition factions in Syria called for a boycott of the referendum, saying the only acceptable solution to the nation's crisis is for President Assad to step down.

The constitution would create a multi-party system in Syria, which has been governed solely by the Baath Party since 1963. But even if it passes, President Assad would still be very powerful.

Forces loyal to the president were blamed for the deaths of at least 31 people Sunday while voting on the referendum took place. Syria says its forces are fighting foreign-backed terrorists.

Clinton renewed her criticism of the Syrian government Sunday during a visit to Morocco. She said troops who remain loyal to Mr. Assad are dishonoring themselves, and she urged them to defect.

“And I want to reiterate my message to those Syrians who still support (Syrian President Bashar) Assad, especially members of the Syrian military and business community. The longer you support the regime's campaign of violence against your brothers and sisters, the more it will stain your honor. If you refuse, however, to prop up the regime or take part in attacks on your fellow citizens, your countrymen and women will hail you as heroes.”

U.N.-appointed investigators estimate the death toll from the uprising at 6,400 civilians and 1,680 army defectors. Syrian officials have said they only took military action when under armed attack from “terrorists.”

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