Arab League Awaits Syria’s Reply on Ending Crackdown

Posted October 30th, 2011 at 8:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Arab League states say they have presented Syrian officials with a concrete plan that would end the country's deadly crackdown on an opposition uprising, and that they expect Damascus to respond on Monday.

Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani led Sunday's talks in the Qatari capital, Doha. He said a “positive” and “serious” proposal was given to Syria, and that it should be implemented immediately.

Details of the Arab League plan were not revealed, but previous attempts by the group to broker a deal with Damascus have included demands for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to withdraw forces and move up presidential elections.

Al-Thani said the league will decide what action to take regarding Syria on Wednesday, after hearing from Mr. Assad's government.

Al-Arabiya television says al-Thani delivered a message to the Syrian foreign minister urging security forces to stop firing on unarmed civilians. The network said Syria's Walid al-Moallem accused the international community of overreacting to what he called media “lies” about the situation in his country.

The 22-member Arab bloc sharpened its criticism of Syria after rights activists said Syrian security forces shot and killed dozens of anti-government protesters on Friday.

Meanwhile, Syria's president warned the Middle East will burn if the international community intervenes in the country's seven-month-long crisis.

Mr. Assad told a British newspaper that any Western action in Syria will cause an “earthquake” and turn the region into “tens of Afghanistans.” In an interview with Britain's Sunday Telegraph, he called Syria the “hub” of the Middle East and said any plan to “divide” the country would splinter the whole region.

Chinese Mideast envoy Wu Sike called on Syria to implement political reforms promised to the public in response to opposition demands. Speaking on a visit to Cairo, Wu said Syria must “respect and respond to the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Wu also said he used a visit to Damascus last week to tell Syrian officials that Beijing believes the violence in Syria “cannot continue.”

Rights activists say at least 90 people were killed in Syria Friday and Saturday, marking one of the bloodiest periods in the country since the anti-Assad rebellion began in March.

They say the dead include 45 civilians and 47 security personnel killed in fighting with army deserters in the provinces of Homs and Idlib. One army defector also was killed. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties because Syria bars most international journalists from operating in the country.

In a separate interview with Russian state television, Mr. Assad said his government is willing to “cooperate” with the Syrian opposition.

Western nations have put economic sanctions into effect to pressure Syria into halting the violence against protesters. An effort to organize similar international sanctions against Damascus, led by European nations, was vetoed at the U.N. Security Council by Russia and China.