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Middle east

Arab League may seek UN backing for Syria plan

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-12-17

After a Russian draft condemning Syrian violence was submitted to the UN Security Council this week, Arab League officials said Saturday they might also seek UN backing for their cease-fire plan, if Damascus persists in its refusal to cooperate.

AFP - The Arab League threatened on Saturday to take Syria to the UN for procrastinating over its deadly crackdown on dissent, as an Iraqi mediator reported "positive" talks aimed at defusing the crisis.

In Doha, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani accused Damascus of "procrastination" over an Arab League proposal to send an observer mission to Syria.

He spoke after an Arab ministerial committee proposed taking the Arab League plan to end the nine-month-long crisis in Syria to the UN Security Council.

The bloc's foreign ministers will meet in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the proposal, he said.

The ministers met in Doha a day after Russia proposed a surprise draft resolution to the council.

"As Russia has gone to the Security Council, a proposal will be presented in the (Arab ministers') meeting on December 21 that the Arab League goes to the Security Council to present the Arab initiative," Sheikh Hamad said.

He said the move is aimed to "adopt the Arab decisions, instead of that of other countries."

Sheikh Hamad, who is also Qatar's foreign minister, said: "There is no hope to find an exit from this crisis. We have used all possible means, (but) it is clear that there is procrastination."

He warned that the Arab League would take Syria to the UN Security Council if it persisted in refusing to allow observers into the country to monitor the protection of civilians.

The 22-member Arab bloc has been trying to persuade Damascus to receive observers to monitor the situation as part of a plan to end the bloodshed.

On November 27, the Arab bloc approved a raft of sanctions against Syria for failing to heed an ultimatum to admit observers.

Earlier this month Syria finally said it would allow the mission, but laid down a number of conditions, namely the lifting of sanctions.

Meanwhile, Iraq's National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayadh flew to League headquarters in Cairo after meeting President Bashar al-Assad.

"I am on my way to Cairo for a meeting with the Arab League after holding positive talks with President Assad," Fayadh told AFP after discussing an Iraqi initiative.

After arriving in Cairo he added: "Our efforts are still continuing to reach a deal between the government and the opposition in Syria. It's too early to speak about the results."

Fayadh went to Damascus two days after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he would submit an initiative aimed at ending the bloodshed.

The initiative is aimed at opening a dialogue between the opposition and the Syrian government to reach a result that satisfies both sides, Maliki told AFP on Thursday.

Some 200 members of the opposition Syrian National Council met for the second consecutive day in Tunis for talks behind closed doors aimed at honing a strategy to topple Assad's regime.

Meanwhile, Western nations said Russia's surprise draft UN resolution should contain stronger condemnation of rights violations by the Assad government and stronger support for Arab League action.

The proposed resolution strongly condemns violence by "all parties, including disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities."

It also raises concern over "the illegal supply of weapons to the armed groups in Syria," according to a copy obtained by AFP.

Russia said it would not be calling for negotiations in the UN Security Council before Monday.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the government crackdown on pro-democracy protests which first erupted in mid-March.

Another 21 civilians were killed during military operations on Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

In the northwest Idlib province two children died in Kafr Sajnah, and a civilian man and a mutineer were killed in the Jabal al-Zawiyah district as troops and deserters clashed.

Another six civilians were killed in the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the uprising, during clashes between regular forces and deserters.

And in the protest hub of Homs in central Syria, five civilians were killed by the security forces and snipers in Qusayr near the border with Lebanon, while a sixth civilian was killed nearby, the Observatory said.

In the Baba Amro, Khalidiyeh and Bayada districts of Homs city itself, four civilians were shot dead and a fifth died under torture, it said.

On Friday, at least 19 civilians were killed in protests across Syria amid mass rallies to criticise the League's failure to take tougher action.

"The Arab League is killing us -- enough deadlines," was the protesters' slogan.

The Observatory said more than 200,000 people protested in the besieged city of Homs alone.

Date created : 2011-12-17

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