Syrian soldiers Homs 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syria on Monday rebuffed as a “conspiracy” an Arab League call for President
Bashar Assad to step down in favor of a unity government.
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foreign ministers tightened sanctions against the Assad regime, while Russia
offered conflicting signals as to whether it still stood by a government
abandoned by all but a few stalwart allies.
An official Syrian source
told the state news agency SANA that the Arab initiative, which would have Assad
hand power to a deputy pending elections, was a “conspiracy against
“Syria rejects the decisions of the Arab League ministerial
council... and considers them a violation of its national sovereignty and a
flagrant interference in its internal affairs,” the source said.
decisions taken in Cairo may be a game-changer, also for the Security Council,”
Germany’s UN Ambassador Peter Wittig told reporters. The Arab plan fell short of
asking for the intervention of the UN Security Council, but it did ask for that
“The Arab League decided to seek the Security
Council’s endorsement for its decisions... This is something that council
members couldn’t easily ignore or oppose,” Wittig said, in apparent reference to
Russia and China, both veto-wielders that have blocked tough action against
Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour – who represents the
Syria-allied Shi’ite Amal movement – criticized the League’s move, saying its
ministers had taken an “unbalanced” approach to the crisis by disregarding
violence perpetrated by Assad’s opponents.
“The Assad regime may dismiss
the Arab League plan as a conspiracy, but even the conspiracy-prone Syrian
people no longer believe Assad has any credibility left,” Michael Rubin, a
resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Jerusalem
The EU added 22 people and eight entities to a list of banned
people and groups and said Assad’s repression was unacceptable.
message from the European Union is clear,” the EU’s foreign policy chief,
Catherine Ashton, said. “The crackdown must stop immediately.”
tougher Syria sanctions came on the same day that the EU unveiled an
“unprecedented” oil embargo against Syria’s patron Iran.
major international partner is Russia. On Monday, Moscow said it had “exhausted
its diplomatic resources” in trying to help Assad, even while new reports
emerged the Kremlin had sold its ally dozens of training jets.
resisted pressure to call for Assad’s resignation and, with China, blocked a
Western-crafted UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned the
Syrian government’s crackdown.
But Russia can do no more, state-run news
agency Itar-Tass quoted Mikhail Margelov, a senior lawmaker who is President
Dmitry Medvedev’s special Africa envoy and has also engaged in diplomacy over
Syria, as saying.
“[Our] veto on the UN Security Council resolution was
the last instrument allowing Bashar Assad to maintain the status quo in the
international arena,” Margelov said. The veto “was a serious signal to the
president of Syria from Russia.
This veto has exhausted our arsenal of
such resources,” said Margelov, who is chairman of the international affairs
committee in Russia’s upper parliament house.
Burhan Ghalioun, head of
the main opposition Syrian National Council, welcomed the Arab League
initiative, saying it “confirms that all Arab countries today consider the
tyrannical regime of Bashar Assad to be finished and that it must be
The Sudanese general who heads the Arab monitoring mission
said violence had dipped in the past month, contradicting accounts by activists
who say at least 600 people were killed.
“After the arrival of the
mission, the intensity of violence began to decrease,” Mohammed al-Dabi told a
news conference at the Cairo-based Arab League, saying the monitors had logged
only 136 deaths on both sides since they began work.
“Our job was to
check what is happening on the ground and not investigate it,” Dabi
His role as chief monitor has displeased Assad’s critics given that
he has held senior military and government posts in Sudan, including in Darfur,
where the International Criminal Court prosecutor says the army carried out war
crimes and the United Nations says 300,000 people may have died.
Arabia, an adversary of Syria’s ally Iran, undermined the mission’s credibility
when it withdrew its own monitors on Sunday, accusing Damascus of defying an
earlier Arab peace plan.
“It takes a lot in the Arab world when even a
regime’s conspiracies are no longer believed,” Rubin said. “That said, nothing
the Arab League does is meant for more than public relations.
diplomats are too divided to ever agree on anything beyond basic
The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed
by the security forces since an anti-Assad revolt began in March.
contributed to this report.