Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution Tuesday threatening sanctions against Syria if it didn't halt the crackdown against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
It would have been the first legally binding resolution adopted by the Security Council since Assad's military began using tanks and soldiers against protesters in mid-March in a crackdown that the U.N. estimates has led to more than 2,700 deaths.
The draft resolution called for the council to consider unspecified measures after a 30-day period.
Nine of the 15-member countries in the Security Council, including the U.S., voted in favor of the resolution, CNN reports. There were reportedly four abstentions — India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon.
Russia's ambassador to the U.N., however, said such an action would have been "an intervention" and would send the wrong message to the international community.
"Some capitals are being overly hasty in passing their judgment about the illegitimacy of the leaders in Syria," Vitaly Churkin told reporters.
Xinhua quoted China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu as saying in a press release that "relevant actions of the U.N. Security Council should help ease the tension in Syria, promote political dialogues to defuse differences, and maintain peace and stability in the Middle East."
The draft resolution presented by relevant countries, Ma said, "put pressure blindly on Syria and threatened sanctions."
He added: "The draft resolution will not help ease Syria's situation."
The last double veto by Russia and China was in July 2008, over sanctions against Zimbabwe, the AP reports. And:
In January 2007, they also vetoed a resolution calling on Myanmar to release all political prisoners, initiate a wide-ranging dialogue and end military attacks and human rights abuses.
The Syria resolution was a watered-down version from a draft in August that called for both an arms embargo and financial sanctions against Syria's president, according to the AP, which added that:
France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud called the veto "a rejection of the extraordinary movement in support of freedom and democracy that is the Arab Spring" and commended "all of those who fight against the bloodthirsty crackdown in Syria."
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice expresses outrage that the Council had "utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security."
She added: "Several members have sought for weeks to weaken and strip bare any text that would have defended the lives of innocent civilians from Assad's brutality."
The Telegraph reports that the situation in Syria is becoming more volatile, with protesters shifting to armed resistance after months of peaceful resistance to the Assad regime.
Syrian troops, meantime, reportedly continue their house-to-house arrests as part of a campaign of intimidation; soldiers have detained more than 3,000 people in three days.
In what appears to be a concession to Syria's wealthy elite, whose support Assad relies upon, Damascus on Tuesday revoked a decision to ban imports of consumer goods that had sent prices soaring, the New York Times reports.