Russia and China veto resolution on Syria at UN
4 February 2012 Last updated at 12:31 ET
An Arab and Western-backed resolution condemning the violent crackdown in Syria has been vetoed at the UN Security Council by Russia and China.
The two permanent members of the council rejected the draft resolution despite strong condemnation by US President Barack Obama of the violence.
The vote came hours after activists accused Syrian security forces of killing at least 55 people at Homs.
Mr Obama described the attack there as an "unspeakable assault".
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the draft resolution for singling out the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and not containing measures against armed opposition groups.
But proposed Russian amendments to the text were described as "unacceptable" by the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice.
Mr Lavrov is due to have talks with Mr Assad in Damascus on Tuesday, along with the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Mikhail Fradkov.
In another development, Tunisia moved to sever relations with the Assad government.
Russia is Syria's main ally on the council, and has said it will veto any resolution calling on Mr Assad to stand down.
The draft resolution, supported by all 13 other members of the Security Council, adopted an Arab League call for a "Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system".
Mohammed Loulichki, Morocco's ambassador to the UN and the sole Arab member of the current council, voiced "great regret and disappointment" that Moscow and Beijing had struck it down.
French Ambassador Gerard Araud said: "It is a sad day for this council, a sad day for all Syrians, and a sad day for democracy."
Early accounts of the casualties in Homs talked of as many as 200 deaths, but one of the main activist groups later revised its confirmed toll down to 55.
The Local Coordinating Committees said it had documented 39 deaths in the Khalidiya district of Homs, eight in other districts of the city and eight in the surrounding region.
Photos from the city on Saturday showed a mass funeral under way in Khalidiya.
Homs appears to have come under a "pretty relentless" bombardment, which targeted areas outside government control, the BBC's Paul Woods reports from just outside the city, where he is travelling with fighters from the Free Syria Army.
He says the fighters are trying to get in via back roads with blood supplies for the casualties.
Homs was one of the first cities to join anti-Assad protests, and became one of the focal points of dissent after government forces fired on crowds in April last year. Many army defectors have sought refuge in the city.
Reports said a hospital had been destroyed in Khalidiya, and residents said more than 30 houses had been wrecked in the barrage.
"We were sitting inside our house when we started hearing the shelling. We felt shells were falling on our heads," Khalidiya resident Waleed told Reuters news agency.
Video footage emerged on the internet showing several bodies covered in blood with a voiceover saying the bombardment was still going on.
State media dismissed the Homs casualty reports as a "hysterical campaign of incitement" by armed gangs designed to influence the UN.
"The civilians shown by satellite television stations are citizens who were kidnapped and killed by armed gunmen," said a report on Sana news agency.
International media outlets are restricted in Syria, making it difficult to verify the claims of either side.
Meanwhile, activists have attacked Syrian embassies around the world
Fresh protests began outside the Syrian embassy in London on Saturday afternoon after six arrests at a demonstration there overnight
Around 50 mainly Syrian protesters broke into their country's embassy in Athens early on Saturday, smashing windows and
About 20 protesters forced their way into the Syrian embassy in Berlin late on Friday and damaged offices, police said. German TV showed a Syrian resistance flag hanging from one of the windows and graffiti sprayed on the outside of the building
In Cairo, protesters stormed the embassy building, smashing furniture and setting fire to parts of the building
Syria has been gripped by nationwide protests against Mr Assad's regime for almost a year.
The UN stopped estimating the death toll after it passed 5,400 in January, saying it was too difficult to confirm numbers.
The Syrian government says at least 2,000 members of its security forces have been killed fighting "armed gangs and terrorists".
this is the SECOND time, as im aware, that China and Russia DOUBLE VETOED the Syria thing.....the US must be pisssssssed.....
they are going to act outside of the UN now. or kick Russia and China out LMAO.....this is happening far too often. i bet it really gets on the US/Europeans nerves.