Russia has rejected the U.S. demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad step down, saying he should be given more time to enact reforms.
Meanwhile, anti-government activists calling for Assad’s ouster stepped up their demands following Friday prayers, the BBC reported.
The BBC said Friday’s protests could be a test of Assad’s claim he had called for an end of army and police operations against civilians calling for his removal.
The United States is “waging a humanitarian and diplomatic war” against Syria, said Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s envoy to the United Nations. He said the United States wants to instigate insurrection in Syria.
Assad has long promised reforms, but they have yet to materialize. Human rights groups said some 2,000 people have died since uprisings calling for Assad’s ouster began five months ago.
Assad has used helicopters, gunships, snipers, tanks and ground forces against civilians in cities across the country, reports have said.
The United States, joined by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, Thursday called for Assad to “step aside,” saying his “calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people.”
U.S. President Barack Obama also called for more stringent trade sanctions against Syria; the European Union could call for its own sanctions, the report said.
The United Nations said it was given permission to send a humanitarian mission to Syria, but in a separate development U.N. investigators said Thursday the use of violence against Syrian protesters could “amount to crimes against humanity.”
In a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, investigators said the U.N. Security Council should refer the issue to the International Criminal Court.