Arab League Presses Syrian FM to End Crackdown

Posted October 30th, 2011 at 1:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Arab League representatives have met with Syrian officials in the Qatari capital, Doha, to demand an end to killings of civilians in Syria's crackdown on an opposition uprising.

Al-Arabiya television says Qatar's foreign minister delivered an Arab League message to his Syrian counterpart urging Syrian security forces to stop firing on unarmed civilians.

The network says Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused the international community of overreacting to what he called media “lies” about the situation in Syria.

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.

Many of the protesters were calling on the West to impose a no-fly zone over Syria to protect them from government attacks. NATO airstrikes helped a Libyan uprising topple Moammar Gadhafi earlier this year, but the alliance has shown little appetite for a similar mission in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told a British newspaper that any Western intervention in Syria will cause an “earthquake” and turn his country into what he called “another Afghanistan.” In the interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he said any plan to “divide Syria” will divide 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 uprising-related violence in Syria on Friday and Saturday, marking one of the bloodiest periods in the country since the anti-Assad rebellion began in March.

The activists 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 Sunday, President Assad said Syria has been “relying” on Russian diplomatic support to withstand Western and Arab criticism of the crackdown.

Western nations have placed economic sanctions on Syria to pressure it to stop using force against protesters. But Russia and China vetoed a European-led effort to secure U.N. Security Council approval for similar sanctions against Damascus.