The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday is to hold a full—fledged discussion of Syria’s crackdown on protesters as Secretary General Ban Ki—moon condemned the repression by the government of Syrian President Bashir al Assad.

Mr. Ban and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay are also calling for an independent and effective investigation of hundreds of civilian deaths in Syria, Mr. Ban said Tuesday.

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari rejected Mr. Ban’s call for the investigation, saying Damascus is fully capable of carrying out the probe.

Appearing before reporters to defend his government’s handling of the demonstrations, Mr. Jaafari said a law adopted by Damascus last week provided for peaceful demonstrations.

“From last week, demonstrators can demonstrate peacefully anywhere in Syria, peacefully without relying to violent acts,” he said. “If you’re demonstrating peacefully you’re protected by the government.”

Mr. Jaafari defended measures taken by the government against some demonstrators because the protesters had “an agenda.”

Mr. Ban attended a closed—door session with the council Tuesday, where it discussed a draft statement reacting to the military repression of civilian protesters and the deaths of reportedly 300 since mid—March.

Diplomats said China and Russia were opposed to any move by the body to condemn Syria.

The council president, Colombia’s U.N. Ambassador Nestor Osorio, said, “There are drafts circulating, but nothing concrete.” The council will meet Wednesday afternoon to hear an updated briefing on the situation in the Middle East by UN officials, and Mr. Ban said government officials would also attend.

In remarks after Tuesday’s closed—door discussions, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice accused Iran of supporting Syria’s military repression of pro—democracy demonstrations.

“We have said repeatedly that we are very conscientious and concerned of evidence of active Iranian support and involvement on behalf of the Syrian government in its repression of its people,” Ms. Rice told reporters.

Ms. Rice said Damascus has used “brutal tactics” against the demonstrators, similar to those used by the Iranian government against the opposition in Iran.

“The U.S. will continue to stand up for democracy, for respect for human rights, universal rights that all human beings deserve in Syria and around the world,” she said.

The U.S. has threatened to tighten current sanctions against the Syrian regime and its supporters.

Ms. Rice said the situations in Libya and Syria are different “in terms of the origins, of consequences and they will be different in terms of the action that is feasible and desirable here in the Security Council.”

She added that the “gravity of the situation” required Wednesday’s discussions because of the “concerns that we all share for the civilians at risk at present in Syria and the potential conflict with implications for regional peace and security.”

Mr. Ban cited the government’s use of tanks against protestors as a cause for “increasingly a grave concern.” “I condemn utterly the continued violence against peaceful protesters, most particularly the use of tanks and live fire that killed and injured hundreds of people,” Mr. Ban told reporters.

He said the Syrian authorities have the obligation to protect the civilian population and respect international human rights, including rights of free expression and peaceful assembly.

Keywords: Syria protests

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