by Ray Fleming

The Syrian government is holding a parliamentary election at the end of this week. It would be laughable if it were not tragic. President Assad is incorrigible -- a rogue ruler of a rogue state. Three weeks ago he appeared to accept Kofi Annan's UN peace plan but since then there has been plenty of evidence that he and his generals are determined to avoid its implementation in every way open to them. Nor is there any reason to think that 300 widely dispersed UN blue berets will in themselves be enough to stop Assad from continuing his evasions. The opposition forces may not have been meticulous in observing the Annan plan but the far greater responsibility rests with Assad.

It is time, therefore, for the Security Council to begin to consider what further measures will be necessary if Assad persists in deploying his considerable delaying skills. A draft resolution calling on the International Criminal Court to indict Assad and his closest advisers might get him to concentrate his mind as would a further tightening of economic and personal sanctions. The possibility of arming the opposition forces should also be kept on the agenda. Of course these measures would require the votes of Russia and China in the Security Council but there is good reason to continue preparations on the assumption that they can eventually be brought round as the situation worsens.

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