Australia calls for sanctions on Syria

by Reuters
Thursday, 28 April 2011 14:10 GMT

* Australia lodges diplomatic protest with Syria

* Australia wants U.N. to investigate rights abuses

(adds quotes and background)

LONDON, April 28 (Reuters) - Australia called on Thursday for international sanctions on Syria over its violent crackdown on protesters and said the United Nations should send a special envoy to investigate events there.

"We believe the time has come for the international community now to consider the use of sanctions against the Syrian regime," Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said after a meeting at the Commonwealth headquarters in London.

He said the message for Syrian authorities was: "This is just not on. You can't go around and thug people to death and expect the international community just to turn a blind eye. We don't."

Rudd said the Australian government had called in Syria's charge d'affaires earlier on Thursday "to register Australia's fundamental opposition to the violence being deployed by the Syrian regime against its own people".

Rudd said he would write to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to ask him to send a U.N. special envoy to Syria to produce a comprehensive report about what was happening there.

"We need a clear basis of fact across the country as to the extent of the violations of fundamental human rights occurring in that country," he said.

The Syrian rights group Sawasiah said on Thursday the death toll in six weeks of protests had risen to at least 500.

A European push for the U.N. Security Council to condemn Syria's crackdown was blocked on Wednesday by resistance from Russia, China and Lebanon, making agreement on U.N. sanctions unlikely. [ID:nN27176604]

Rudd said Australia could consider imposing sanctions unilaterally if no agreement was possible at the United Nations.

He said Australia would liaise closely with the European Union, which is already discussing measures against Syria, on what sanctions might consist of. Washington is also considering its own sanctions against Syria.

Rudd also said that a group of Commonwealth ministers meeting on Thursday had decided to maintain Fiji's suspension of from the organisation, imposed in 2009 over its failure to meet a deadline for opening talks on a return to democracy. (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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