BEIRUT (AP) - The United States proposed an international coalition to support Syria's opposition Sunday after Russia and China blocked a U.N. attempt to end nearly 11 months of bloodshed, raising fears that violence will escalate. Rebel soldiers said force was now the only way to oust President Bashar Assad, while the regime vowed to press its military crackdown.
The threat of both sides turning to greater force after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution raises the potential for Syria's turmoil to move into even a more dangerous new phase that could degenerate into outright civil war.
The uprising inspired by other Arab Spring revolts began in March with peaceful protests against Assad's regime, sparking a fierce crackdown by government forces. Soldiers who defected to join the uprising later began to protect protesters from attacks.
More than 5,400 people have been killed since March, according to the U.N., and now regime opponents fear that Assad will be emboldened by the feeling he is protected by his top ally Moscow and unleash even greater violence to crush protesters. If the opposition turns overtly to armed resistance, the result could be a increase in bloodshed.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that chances for "a brutal civil war" would increase as Syrians under attack from their government move to defend themselves, unless international steps provide another way.
Speaking to reporters in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, she called the double veto at the U.N. Security Council on Saturday "a travesty."