U.S. ambassador: Russian veto 'extremely disruptive' on Syria

Samantha Power said the civil war continues because the council is unable to get Russia to pressure Assad, its ally

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The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says Russia's vetoes against holding Syria's government accountable are "extremely disruptive" to the U.N. Security Council's ability to restore peace in the conflict, and have emboldened President Bashar Assad to do "almost whatever he wants."

In a brief interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Samantha Power said the civil war continues because the council is unable to get Russia to pressure Assad, its ally. "The things we think are indispensable, Russia is not prepared to do," she said.

Power said council members now must "push and push and push" on the next goal: Finding a way to assign blame in the continuing reports of the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

Neither the United Nations nor the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has a mandate to assign blame in the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Syria's conflict is entering its fifth year, with more than 200,000 killed, and the Security Council is often accused of failing Syria's people.

Power said of Assad, "his day will come," but she warned that justice can be slow.

The ambassador spoke shortly after visiting an exhibit of an archive of photographs smuggled out of Syria by a former crime scene photographer for the government, who now lives in exile and used the pseudonym "Caesar."

The graphic photos of bodies of detainees from government prisons, some of them showing gouged-out eyes or signs of torture or starvation, were shown to the Security Council last year and helped to inspire a council effort to refer Syria's situation to the International Criminal Court.

"If the Caesar photos don't make you want to do an ICC referral, I don't know what does," Power said.

But Russia vetoed the effort at an ICC referral, along with China.

Looking forward, the ambassador said she is seeing "more of an emphasis on a political solution now from Russia than we've seen before, and that's for good reason, because the situation of course is so much worse the longer it goes on."

Russia in late January hosted consultations in Moscow between representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition, the first on Syria since a U.N.-sponsored conference in Geneva collapsed early last year. Further talks are expected soon.

Power said no one, including Russia, wants to see Syria become a "magnet for terrorism."