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UN: Death Toll In Syria Repression Crosses 7,500 Mark

A senior U.N. official said on Tuesday that more than 7,500 people had been killed in brutal suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Syria since it began nearly a year ago, with the daily civilian deaths in security crackdowns often crossing the 100 mark.

"There are credible reports that the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including many women and children. The total killed so far is certainly well over 7,500 people," Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe told the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday.

Pascoe also told the Council that failure of the international community to "stop the carnage" had led the Syrian regime to believe that it could act with "impunity." He was apparently referring to refusals by China and Russia to back the joint Western-Arab efforts to end the ongoing violence and to take punitive U.N. actions against the Syrian regime in response to its suppression of the unrest.

His remarks came just over three weeks after China, along with Russia, vetoed a resolution endorsing an Arab League plan for Syria when it was put to vote at the UNSC on February 4. The plan required beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad to step down and authorize his deputy to initiate peace talks with the Opposition for forming a national unity government.

Both Russia and China insisted that the Arab League plan amounted to regime change in Syria. Since the February 4 veto, Moscow and Beijing have been attempting to mediate talks between the Assad regime and the Opposition for resolving the crisis. The two nations had also vetoed a Western resolution condemning repression in Syria in October.

Syria has been witnessing a popular uprising against the discredited Assad regime since last March. At the onset, Opposition activists only demanded the implementation of political and economic reforms. But they were now seeking Assad's immediate exit from power in the wake of the thousands killed by security forces.

Reports emerging from that Middle East country indicate that the government is continuing to use tanks and hundreds of heavily-armed troops in military operations to put down the unrest in Homs as well as several other cities and towns.

The government, however, blames "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence. It also warned against any foreign military intervention. The regime claims that about 1,345 of its security personnel have died in the violence and puts the number of civilians killed so far at 2,493.

Despite unabated violence, the Syrian regime held a referendum on a new draft Constitution last week and adopted the measure on Monday. The Opposition had boycotted the referendum, dismissing it a ploy of the regime to divert international attention from the ongoing crackdowns.

The new Constitution proclaims freedom as "a sacred right" and allows a multi-party democratic system. It also removes the unique status given to the Baath Party as the "leader of state and society" under the earlier version and effectively ends nearly 50 years of single-party rule.

The referendum evoked mixed response from the international community, with Western nations denouncing the move and Syria's allies welcoming it. While Washington termed the referendum a "sham" and "laughable," Moscow described it as an important step toward democracy.

Despite opposition from China and Russia at the U.N. to take unified actions against the Syrian regime, the EU, the U.S. and Turkey have imposed several rounds of sanctions on the Arab country. They have also indicated plans to tighten the sanctions if the crisis is not resolved quickly.

by RTT Staff Writer

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