UNITED NATIONS — Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Tuesday the U.N. Security Council's failure to take action to stop the conflict in Syria is "a moral and strategic disgrace that history will judge harshly."
She told reporters at her final news conference Tuesday before starting her new job as U.S. national security adviser on July 1 that the paralysis of the U.N.'s most important body is "a stain" on the council that she will regret forever – even though she maintained that the U.S. and its allies were not responsible.
Rice blamed three double vetoes by Russia and China of resolutions aimed at pressuring Syria's President Bashar Assad to end the violence, even though they didn't contain sanctions.
She expressed hope that the Syrian people will ultimately be able to chart their own future "and certainly the United States is committed to supporting them in those efforts and we will remain so."
"I think we've seen in this region of the world and many other parts of the world that these struggles can be long and costly but rarely can I think of an instance in recent history where at the end of the day ... the unified aspirations of a people for freedom and to chart their own future are ultimately suppressed," Rice said.
She wouldn't comment the refusal of China or Russia to extradite National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, and dismissed criticism of human rights in the United States by those countries and Ecuador, where Snowden has sought asylum, saying: "I think the records of other countries speak for themselves."
Rice called the U.S. relationship with Russia "complex and multifaceted," explaining that during her 4 1/2 years at the U.N. there have been disagreements with Moscow but the vast majority of accomplishments by the Security Council "have been accomplishment in partnership and with the support of the majority of the council including the veto-wielding members and that includes Russia."
In the future, she said, there will undoubtedly be important issues of divergence and disagreement.
But Rice stressed: "I'm not prepared to predict that that is inevitable, and certainly not across the board, where on issues as important as Iran and North Korea and many others we have been able to find common ground."
She listed the council's imposition of very tough sanctions on Iran and North Korea among the major accomplishments during her years as ambassador along with the council's authorization of military action to protect civilians in Libya, the birth of the new country of South Sudan, the political transformation in Yemen, the advance of women's equality and the U.N.'s "remarkable shift" on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Yet, she said, "conflict, abuse, atrocities, poverty and suffering persist in too many places," particularly Syria.