Arab League chief heads to UN over Syria

Elaraby seeks support of UNSC for plan to ask Assad to step down; Arab foreign ministers discuss "developments."

 Arab League Sec.-Gen. Elaraby with Qatari FM Jassim  390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Arab League Sec.-Gen. Elaraby with Qatari FM Jassim 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby headed to New York on Sunday seeking to win support from the UN Security Council for a plan to end violence in Syria by asking President Bashar Assad to step aside.
Elaraby will brief the Security Council on Tuesday but the Arab initiative, which is backed by Western states, is facing resistance from Russia and China, two of the five permanent members of the council with veto powers.
Elaraby, the league's secretary-general, will be joined in New York by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, whose country heads the league's committee charged with following Syrian developments. Qatar and fellow Gulf Arab state Saudi Arabia have been leading efforts to put pressure on Assad.
"We will hold several meetings with representatives from members of the Security Council to obtain the council's support and agreement to the Arab initiative," Elaraby told reporters at Cairo airport shortly before leaving for New York.
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Asked about China and Russia's reluctance to take new steps over Syria, Elaraby said he hoped the two nations would change their position. "There are contacts with China and Russia on this issue," he said.
Arab foreign ministers will meet on Feb. 5 to discuss the Syria crisis, a top Arab League official said on Sunday after the pan-Arab body suspended the work of an observer mission that was sent to check if Damascus was heeding an Arab peace plan.
League Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed Ben Helli told reporters the ministers meeting to discuss "the latest developments in Syria" would also hold talks on the Palestinian issue.