Arab League looks for U.N. support in ending Syria’s crackdown on dissent

Added by on December 17, 2011

The Arab League is considering seeking U.N. Security Council backing for a long-stalled regional initiative aimed at ending Syria’s bloody crackdown on dissent, Qatar’s foreign minister said Saturday.

The proposal comes after Syria repeatedly flouted deadlines to agree to observers to monitor compliance with the league-negotiated peace plan, which calls for a halt to hostilities, the withdrawal of security forces from urban areas and dialogue with the opposition.

Arab foreign ministers will meet in Cairo on Wednesday to consider asking the Security Council to adopt the plan, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al Thani told reporters after a meeting of a league ministerial committee in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

The 22-member regional bloc has been divided over whether to ask the U.N. to intercede in Syria, with some nations concerned that it could set the stage for the kind of military intervention that helped topple President Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.

“We are not talking about military action, but we will ask the Security Council to adopt the Arab initiative,” Jassim said, according to wire service reports.

This week, Syria’s longtime ally Russia circulated a draft Security Council resolution calling on all sides to suspend hostilities. Russia and China previously had used their veto power to block a Western-backed resolution condemning Syria for its handling of the 9-month-old uprising, saying it was one-sided.

Jassim said the Arab League wanted to see that “Arab resolutions are adopted rather than those of other nations.”

Iraq, which has thousands of refugees in Syria, sent its national security adviser to the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Saturday to review means to handle the crisis with President Bashar Assad. Arab foreign ministers called off a conference that was to be held on Saturday to determine their next step while discussions continue.

The repeated and on-going delays have annoyed protesters in Syria, who took to the streets in the thousands on Friday.

Last month, the league suspended Syria and authorized penalizing sanctions in a bid to encourage Damascus to abide by with its peace plan.

Syria, which maintains it is committed to the plan, has said it is willing to sign a protocol for observers conditional lifting regional sanctions.

In spite of Syria’s stated commitment to the peace plan, there has been no indication that the crackdown is lifting.

Security forces killed at least 20 people Saturday, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Local Coordination Committees, another opposition group, suggested the death toll was as high as 41, and included eight military defectors.

The United Nations states more than 5,000 people have been killed since the beginnnig of major protests in March, a figure that is disputed by the government. Syrian officials blame the bloodshed on what they describe as armed terrorist gangs which they say are incited and supported from abroad and have been responsible for the killing greater than 1,100 members of the security force.