Syrian activists raise death toll to 28

November 23, 2011 - 4:30 AM
Turkey Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, front left, speaks with Mehmet Gormez, head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, after a meeting with African Muslim religious leaders in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 21. 2011. Erdogan urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop oppressing his people and go to elections.

BEIRUT (AP) — The death toll from a day of security raids and violence in Syria has risen to at least 28 people, activists said Wednesday, as President Bashar Assad came under mounting worldwide pressure to end eight months of bloodshed.

Tuesday's violence came as a key U.N. committee voted to condemn human rights violations by Assad's government and called for an immediate end to all violence. Nearly 4,000 people have been reported killed in the military crackdown on the popular uprising since March.

Two main activist groups, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordinating Committees, documented the deaths, which were reported in the central cities of Hama and Homs, the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and elsewhere.

The nonbinding resolution adopted by the General Assembly's human rights committee Tuesday calls on Syrian authorities to implement an Arab League peace plan, agreed to earlier this month, "without further delay."

It also urges the withdrawal of government tanks from the streets, the release of political prisoners, a halt to attacks on civilians, and allowing observers into the country.

The resolution, sponsored by Britain, France and Germany, was passed by a vote of 122-13 with 41 abstentions. It must now be approved at a plenary session of the 193-member world body, where its adoption is virtually certain.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said in a statement that the committee's first-ever resolution on Syria's human rights violations "has sent a clear message that it does not accept abuse and death as a legitimate path to retaining power."

Syria tried to prevent a vote on the resolution, introducing a motion to take "no action" but it was overwhelmingly defeated.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari again accused Britain, France and Germany of "waging a media, political and diplomatic war against Syria" and encouraging armed groups to engage in violence rather than national dialogue with the government.

Although the European powers sponsored the resolution, he said, "it is not a secret that the United States of America is the mastermind and main instigator of the political campaign against my country."

The resolution had more than 60 co-sponsors including Syria's fellow Arab nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain and Kuwait, and neighbor Turkey, which has been outspoken in its criticism of Assad's crackdown and is hosting Syrian opposition groups.

Syria only got support from Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, who objected to targeting a single country for what they called political motives.

It was a victory for the three European powers who failed last month to win approval for a legally binding Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against Syria for its violent crackdown because of Russian and Chinese vetoes.

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Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.