UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the violence in Syria was getting worse, bringing the country closer to the brink of civil war.
"The evidence is clear that (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad's forces are initiating nearly all the attacks that kill civilians, but as more citizens take up arms to resist the regime's brutality, violence is increasingly likely to spiral out of control," Clinton told council.
Clinton also urged the 15-nation body to support a European-Arab draft resolution that endorses an Arab League plan that calls for Assad to transfer his powers to his deputy to prepare for elections.
The head of the Arab League and the prime minister of Qatar had earlier urged the Security Council to endorse an Arab plan for Assad to give up power.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby urged the council to take "rapid and decisive action" while Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani warned the 15-nation body that Syria's "killing machine is still at work."
Elaraby added that Arab nations are attempting to avoid foreign military intervention in the 10-month-old Syrian crisis, a point Sheikh Hamad also emphasized. The Qatari prime minister suggested the council should use economic leverage instead.
"We are not calling for a military intervention," Sheikh Hamad said. "We are advocating the exertion of a concrete economic pressure so that the Syrian regime might realize that it is imperative to meet the demands of its people."
"We are not after regime change, for this is a matter that is up to the Syrian people to decide," he added.
Their public rejection of the idea of foreign military intervention appeared to be directed at Russia, which Western diplomats are worried might veto the European-Arab draft resolution that endorses the Arab League plan for Syria out of fear that it could lead to a Libyan-style military operation.
Both men blamed the crisis in Syria squarely on the government, whereas Russia has sought to blame both the opposition and government equally. Elaraby said the opposition had resorted to arms because of what he called "the excessive use of force" by Syrian authorities.