'Children among 40 dead in Syrian civil conflict'

Qatari FM says Arab League will not request military action, but Syria delaying its response to peace plan.

By REUTERS
December 18, 2011 15:48
3 minute read.
Anti-Assad protest near Syrian city of Homs

Syria protests Homs 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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The death toll in Syria rose to 40 people including two children Saturday in clashes between anti-government elements and Syrian security forces in cities throughout the Levantine country, Al Jazeera reported according to "local" sources.

The majority were killed in Deraa, the southern city where protests first broke out in Syria March 18, and Homs. An additional three were killed in Idlib in northwestern Syria. One person was killed each in Hama, Deir al Zour, and the Damascus area.

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According to the report, among the dead were two children and one Lebanese national. 

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The unrest is the most serious challenge to the 11-year rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad, 46, whose family is from the minority Alawite sect - an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam - and has dominated majority Sunni Muslim Syria since 1970.

An armed insurgency has begun to eclipse civilian protests, raising fears Syria could descend into civil war.

Two days ago army deserters killed 27 soldiers and security personnel in the southern province of Deraa, an activist group said.


Arab states may ask UN to adopt peace plan

Arab states may ask the UN Security Council to adopt an Arab peace plan aimed at ending a Syrian crackdown on pro-democracy protests but they will not seek military action, the Qatari foreign minister said on Saturday.



Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani told a news conference after an Arab League ministerial committee meeting in Doha that Syria was delaying in its response to the peace plan presented by Arab states last month.

"Since Russia has gone to the UN Security Council, there is a draft Arab resolution to be sent to the Arab League meeting on Dec. 21 to ask the Security Council to adopt the Arab initiative and Arab resolutions instead of resolutions from other states," Sheikh Hamad told a news conference.

"We are not talking about military action but we will ask the Security Council to adopt the Arab initiative," he said.

Arab foreign ministers will discuss asking the UN Security Council to adopt the Arab peace proposal at a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, he said.

At the panel, diplomats voiced optimism that new Russian pressure on Damascus could overcome its resistance to the proposal.

Al Jazeera television said Syria's government had demanded an end to what it termed a media campaign against it and to alleged arms smuggling to its opponents before signing the Arab League protocol outlining steps to defuse the Syrian crisis.

Arab governments on Friday called off a regular foreign ministers' meeting meant to weigh Syria's response to the initiative for ending violence, in which more than 5,000 people involved in Syria's unrest have been killed, by UN count.

Instead, a lower-level meeting of the League's ministerial committee on Syria, comprising the foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan, Oman, Qatar and Algeria, began in Qatar on Saturday.

The League had suspended Syria's membership over its refusal to comply with the peace plan calling for Assad to withdraw troops and tanks from restive cities, free prisoners and start a reform-minded dialogue with the opposition.

The Arab League also wants to send an observer mission to Syria to ensure compliance with the proposal.

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