The Arab League called Sunday for the UN Security Council to scrap its own
monitoring mission to Syria in favor of a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force in
the battle-scarred country.
Arab ministers met in Cairo to revive
diplomatic efforts after Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution that called for
President Bashar Assad to step aside. That resolution was based on an Arab peace
plan and had Western backing.
The Arab League urged the Syrian opposition
to unify its ranks and for “providing all forms of political and material
support to it.”
He did not specify if that support should include
military aid. Western powers have shunned military action, despite widespread
condemnation of the repression of the uprising, in which thousands have been killed since it erupted last March.
television quoted its ambassador to the League as calling its decision “a
flagrant departure from the group’s charter and a hostile act that targets
Syria’s security and stability.”
“This decision reflects the state of
hysteria and blundering that the governments of some Arab countries are living
in, particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, after their latest failure at the UN
Security Council to get foreign intervention in Syria,” the ambassador was
quoted as saying.
As part of the Arab efforts, Tunisia said it would host
the first meeting on February 24 of a “Friends of Syria” contact group made up
of Arab and other states, and backed by Western powers.
“How long will we
stay as onlookers to what is happening to the brotherly Syrian people, and how
much longer will we grant the Syrian regime one period after another so it can
commit more massacres against its people?” the ambassador asked.
Foreign Minister Saud Faisal questioned ministers at the start of the League
“At our meeting today I call for decisive measures, after the
failure of the half-solutions.”
The resolution said Arabs would scrap
their monitoring mission, which had been sent to Syria in late December, but was
criticized by Syria’s opposition as ineffective from the outset. It also faced
internal dissent and logistical problems.
On Sunday, the Sudanese general
leading the observers quit.
“I won’t work one more time in the framework
of the Arab League,” said Gen. Mohammed Dabi, whose appointment had been
criticized because of Sudan’s own rights record. “I performed my job with full
integrity and transparency but I won’t work here again as the situation is
skewed,” he added, without elaborating.
In place of the Arab team, the
League called for the UN Security Council to issue a resolution setting up a
joint UN-Arab peacekeeping mission to go to Syria.
League chief Nabil
Elaraby has already proposed such a joint mission to the UN secretary- general,
but the plan has drawn lukewarm support from diplomats at the United Nations in
New York. The United States and Germany said they were studying it.
the ground in the besieged city of Homs, sporadic rocket and gunfire broke a
respite in government bombardments of opposition-held neighborhoods, killing at
least four people, activists said.
Shelling had eased during Saturday
night and Sunday morning before Assad’s forces renewed their rocket
At least four people were killed, activists said.
least 300 people are said to have been killed in the past week in mostly
Sunni-opposition areas, food and medicine are running short, and people have
been trapped indoors for days by relentless artillery and sniper fire, residents
Sunday’s resolution said violence against civilians in Syria had
violated international law and “perpetrators deserve punishment.”
reaffirmed a call for Arabs to implement economic sanctions on Syria and decided
on ending diplomatic cooperation with Damascus.
Analysts and diplomats
say sanctions that Arabs agreed to impose last year had limited impact so far
because Iraq and other neighbors have not implemented them.
ministers lent their support to the opposition, the resolution did not recognize
the opposition. Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Ben Abdessalem said recognizing
the Syrian National Council was “premature and requires the opposition get
unified.” Earlier he had told ministers: “The Syrian people deserve freedom as
much as their brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other Arab states that
witnessed major political change.”
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin
Jassim al Thani said the “Friends of Syria” forum would provide “a good
opportunity to try to create a clear international direction to help the Syrian
people to exit the crisis.”
Diplomats at the United Nations said Saudi
Arabia had circulated a new draft resolution backing the Arab plan for the
General Assembly, rather than the Security Council, to consider. Assembly
resolutions are non-binding but cannot be vetoed.
Riyadh denied on Sunday
reports that it had formally presented the resolution to the
Egypt’s news agency said Elaraby had proposed appointing former
Jordanian minister and UN envoy to Libya, Abdel Elah Khatib, as the League’s
special envoy to Syria, but a source in the meeting said Khatib’s name was not
In the northern Syrian town of Aleppo, mourners gathered for
the funerals of 28 soldiers and civilians killed in bomb attacks on two military
and security facilities on Friday.
No one has claimed responsibility for
the blasts, but the government has blamed previous such attacks in Damascus on
Speaking at the funerals, Ahmed Badr Din Hassoun, mufti of
Syria, appealed to the opposition to end its campaign.
Enough. Enough. Why, brothers in the opposition, do you want to burn down
your country? Why do you want to shed blood?” he said.
He also urged
Assad to stamp out corruption, but added, “this way it will not remain a pretext
for those who want to destroy this nation.”
Syrian state television
reported that Assad, who says he is introducing reforms to meet the opposition
demands, received a new draft constitution on Sunday.
constitution is recognized, Syria will have taken the most important step toward
a legal and constitutional framework for transitioning the country to a new
era... that will achieve what we all aspire to,” Hassoun was quoted as
Al-Qaida leader Ayman al- Zawahiri urged Syrians not to rely on
the West or Arab governments in their uprising.
Zawahiri described Assad
as a butcher and urged Muslims in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan to come to
the aid of the rebels.
“You know better what they are planning against
you,” Zawahiri said in a video recording posted on the Internet.
depend on the Arab League and its corrupt governments supporting it.”