Conflict & Justice

China and Russia boycott sanctions against Syria

Russia and China have boycotted U.N. Security Council talks on a proposal to impose sanctions on Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats say.

Ambassadors or their deputies from the 15-member council were invited to the talks but China and Russia failed to show - proving it will be difficult to take action against Assad over his deadly crackdown.

More than 2,200 civilians have been killed since the uprising began in mid-March.

"The Russian and Chinese seats were empty, there was no one," a council diplomat said, AFP reports.

Russia and China, along with the United States, France and Britain, are permanent members of the council who can veto any resolution.

Russia has strongly spoken out against Syria sanctions, insisting that Assad should be given the opportunity to implement promised reforms.

Brazil, India and South Africa, non-permanent members of the council, are also believed to have strong reservations about sanctions, AFP reports.

AFP reports:

Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the United States - the main backers of the sanctions campaign - hope to sway at least one of the three doubters from the emerging powers.

Their draft resolution calls for sanctions against Assad, his entourage and companies that fund the Syrian government and a total arms embargo.

Assad leads a list of 23 individuals and four entities named in the draft document who would be subject to an asset freeze.

The president is however not on the 22-name list for a proposed travel ban.

On Thursday, the U.S. condemned the "disgusting" beating of Syrian satirical cartoonist Ali Ferzat after masked gunmnen dragged him from his car after he left his Damascus studio at 4am Friday and broke his hands, the Independent reported.

Ali Ferzat, whose satirical art once drew death threats from Saddam Hussein, was treated in hospital.

Mr Ferzat was followed by a four-wheel-drive with tinted windows, said activists, and one of Mr Ferzat's relatives, the Independent reports.

Four men then dragged him out of his car, forced him into the Jeep and drove out to a highway on the outskirts of the capital. "We will break your hands so that you'll stop drawing," said the gunmen, the relative told the Associated Press news agency.

"We are concerned in particular about these individuals, who are among the most moderate, and we are concerned about the disgusting decision to brutalize this cartoonist's hands," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, AFP reports.

Nuland said there are "credible" pictures of Ferzat's hands showing they had been broken in what she called "the most disgusting and deplorable way to send a message", AFP reports.

"It's not only Ali Ferzat that we are worried about. The regime has also locked up a number of other prominent dissidents to send a message," she added.

She identified them as Walid al-Buni, Nawaf Bashir, George Sabra, Mohammed Galiyun and Abdullah al-Khalil.