53 killed and more than 250 wounded in Damascus attack

The refusal of the U.S. to sign on a Russian draft that unreservedly condemned Thursday’s vicious car bombing in Damascus as a terrorist act has again exposed the rift between two countries on the volatile situation in Syria.

The U.S. and its allies refused to endorse the draft that Moscow had floated at the U.N. Security Council, which expressed condolences to the victims of Thursday’s tragedy, and condemned terrorism in all its forms, Russia Today reported.

The report added that the western powers, led by the U.S., wanted to add language to the draft that condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad— a position that Russia refused to accept.

At least 53 people were killed and more than 250 wounded in the deadliest attack in the two-year confrontation.

The site of the car bombing was in the heart of the city — not far the Russian embassy, and the headquarters of the ruling Ba’ath party. Damascus blamed the foreign-backed elements linked to al-Qaeda for the attack.

Within hours of the bombing, Russia released a hard-hitting statement from the office of Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s envoy to the U.N., which said it was unfortunate that “such an indispensable reaction by the Security Council to this terrorist attack has been once again blocked by the U.S. delegation linking it with other questions”.

Sharp criticism

It reinforced its sharp criticism of Washington by saying a “search for justifications for terrorist actions” was unacceptable.

In a veiled reference to the horrific attack in September on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the Ambassador, the Russians pointed out that by refraining from condemning the perpetrators of Thursday’s carnage, “the U.S. delegation encourages those who have been repeatedly targeting American interests, including U.S. diplomatic missions”.

Thursday’s strike, meticulously planned to cause maximum damage, seemed to echo the feud within the Syrian opposition — between those who support negotiations with Syria without seeking President Assad’s immediate removal; and those who are adamant on preconditioning a dialogue to the President’s fall.

In Cairo, Moaz al-Khatib — the President of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) — who had earlier proposed a dialogue with government without insisting that Mr. Assad should step down first, was heavily criticised by his rivals for not setting a “clear goal”.

Nevertheless, Mr. Khatib is heading for talks in Russia, which has emerged as the hub of diplomacy to resolve the crisis.

Russia hosted a four-member Arab delegation led by Arab League Chief Nabil ElAraby earlier in the week, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem is also heading to Moscow for talks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the visiting Arab delegation that the Syrian situation can only be resolved through peaceful means, as there was no military solution to the crisis.

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