John Baird: Minister Announces New Measures Against Syrian Regime

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JOHN BAIRD
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has announced new measures against Syria's totalitarian regime, while chiding the UN for its failure to act decisively in the face of what he calls clear human-rights violations. | CP

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has announced new measures against Syria's totalitarian regime, while upbraiding the UN for its failure to act decisively in the face of what he calls clear human-rights violations.

Canada is freezing Syrian government assets, blocking Syrian imports except food, banning new investment in Syria and prohibiting exports to Syria of equipment, including software, for the monitoring of telephone and Internet communications.

"Assad is cut off," Baird said of Syria's president. "His disgusting brand of violence must stop and come to an end. He must go."

More than 5,000 Syrians have been killed by Assad forces during protests against his rule. A frustrated Baird castigated the United Nations Security Council for its inability to condemn the violence or agree on more robust action such as sanctions or military action.

"That is not a good day for the Security Council," he said. "Obviously, we want to see strong action taken at the UN Security Council.

"The first measure would be to simply have a strong condemnation of the violence. The United Nations has been unable to act in that regard, let alone imposing strong sanctions. We obviously are working outside the United Nations with our allies."

Sanctions by Western powers, Turkey and the Arab League have added to the growing pressure on Assad from within Syria. The U.S. State Department has said Assad's repression may allow him to hang on to power, but not for long.

Canada exported $60 million in goods to Syria last year, while importing almost $17 million-worth.

"Assad will fall," Baird said. "The government will fall. It's only a matter of time; it has no future."

A delegation of the Syrian National Council, a coalition of opposition groups, met Baird later in the day.

The Syrian National Council is an umbrella organization made up of secular groups and Islamists seeking recognition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Representatives from the council met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month in Geneva.

"We asked the Canadian government to recognize the people's revolution, to recognize the people's demands for freedom and democracy in Syria," said Obaida Nahhas, a member of the delegation.

"We have thanked the Canadian government for asking Bashar al-Assad to step down and for his team to go with him, and we have also asked the Canadian government to help convince some countries, some governments in the UN Security Council, to bring forward a resolution that will help in the protection of civilians in Syria."

Armed clashes have been escalating, raising concerns the country of 22 million is headed toward civil war.

Twin suicide car bomb blasts ripped through an upscale Damascus district today, targeting heavily guarded intelligence buildings and killing at least 40 people, Syrian authorities said.

The blasts came a day after an advance team of Arab League observers arrived in the country to monitor Syria's promise to end its crackdown.

Government officials took the observers to the scene of the explosions — the first suicide bombings in Syria since the uprising began in March. The Syrian authorities said the attacks backed their claims the turmoil is not a popular uprising but the work of terrorists.

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