World condemns Syria, but no consensus on war
The Syrian regime faced withering international condemnation over its deadly crackdown on the city of Hama but NATO's chief on Monday ruled out a Libya-style intervention to halt the bloodshed.
Russia, which has threatened to veto any UN Security Council resolution against President Bashar al-Assad's government, a close ally, on Monday joined the long list of nations to condemn the Damascus regime's brutality.
Russia's foreign ministry in a statement called for an end to "repressions," adding the "use of force against both peaceful civilians and representatives of state structures is unacceptable and should be stopped immediately."
Leaders from across the world have fiercely attacked Assad's government after reports that his security forces killed nearly 140 people in an assault on pro-democracy protesters in Hama.
But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen ruled out Libya-style military support for the anti-Assad forces on the grounds that there is no international consensus in favour of intervention.
"In Libya, we're carrying out an operation based on a clear UN mandate. We have the support of countries in the region. These two conditions are not met in Syria," he told France's Midi Libre regional daily.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague agreed that there was no prospect of achieving a UN mandate for a military operation.
"It's not a remote possibility, even if we were in favour of that, which we're not," he told BBC radio.
"There is no prospect of a legal, morally sanctioned military intervention. And therefore we have to concentrate on other ways of influencing the Assad regime and of trying to help the situation in Syria," he said.
"It is a very frustrating situation. The levers that we have in this situation are relatively limited but we should be frank in admitting that and working with the ones that we have."
While military strikes against regime targets in Syria remain off the table, Hague and other world leaders have vowed to intensify the diplomatic pressure on Damascus.
A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday said a new round of sanctions against Syrians involved in the crackdown on protesters was "imminent".
A diplomat said the sanctions would come into force Tuesday when the names of the five are released in the EU's Official Journal.
Ashton previously described Sunday's violence as a "totally unjustified assault", insisting it "is even more unacceptable coming on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan."
US President Barack Obama in a statement Sunday called the reports of the violence in Hama "horrifying" and said they "demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime."
"In the days ahead, the United States will continue to increase our pressure on the Syrian regime, and work with others around the world to isolate the Assad government and stand with the Syrian people," he added.
Hague, who said he want to see "stronger international pressure all round," lamented the obstacles blocking a formal UN Security Council resolution calling for the release of Syrian political prisoners and the opening of meaningful dialogue between the regime and protesters.
But he admitted that divisions in the council made this "quite difficult."
Despite issuing a vibrant criticism of the recent violence, Russia has with China persistently blocked a Western-drafted Security Council resolution on Syria, to the irritation of other world powers.
When reports on the extent of the violence emerged Sunday, leaders from Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands as well as the European parliament were quick to voice their condemnations.
Turkey, which has already taken in thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the crackdown, also urged a halt to the violence.