Syria Rejects Arab League Call for Power Transfer

Posted January 23rd, 2012 at 1:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Syria has rejected a new Arab League initiative to end the country's 10-month-old opposition uprising.

The initiative agreed to by Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Sunday requires Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to a deputy and allow the formation of a national unity government with the opposition within two months. The new government would be responsible for organizing parliamentary and presidential elections under Arab and international supervision.

In reports Monday, Syrian state media denounced the plan as a “flagrant” violation of Syrian sovereignty. Qatar said the Arab League will ask the United Nations Security Council to support the initiative.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels expressed support for Arab League efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. They also approved additional EU sanctions on Syria, imposing travel bans and asset freezes on another 22 people and eight companies linked to the Assad government.

The Syrian uprising against Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule has become increasingly militarized in recent weeks. In the latest unrest Monday, Syrian rights activists say army defectors killed five pro-Assad troops in a battle in the central province of Homs. They say government security forces also killed at least 10 civilians in operations against centers of protest around Syria.

The activists also say at least 60,000 people gathered in the protest hub of Douma, near Damascus, for the funerals of 11 people killed by pro-Assad forces in recent days. It was not possible to independently verify details of the funeral procession or the casualties because Syria severely restricts independent media coverage in the country.

The Arab League mission's Sudanese chief, General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said Monday violence in Syria declined after the observers began work on December 26. Speaking to reporters in Cairo, al-Dabi said the observers' job is not to stop the unrest but to monitor it. He also said his team confirmed that 136 people have been killed by both sides in the conflict.

The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syria says terrorists have killed about 2,000 security force members since the unrest began.