Arab Leaders Weigh Syria Resolution

Posted March 29th, 2012 at 7:25 am (UTC-5)
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Arab leaders are considering a draft resolution supporting special envoy Kofi Annan's peace initiative for Syria, as they gather for a landmark summit in Baghdad.

The measure drafted by Arab League foreign ministers for the summit's approval calls for President Bashar al-Assad's government to stop violent attacks on the opposition and allow peaceful protests.

Mr. Annan said Syria accepted his plan earlier this week, but violence has continued.

Syrian rights activists said at least three civilians were killed Thursday when government forces attacked northern Idlib province, while rebels killed two soldiers in the central province of Hama.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency also said four gunmen who were part of an “armed terrorist group” assassinated two colonels in Aleppo.

In Washington Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said “it is clear” Syria's government has not carried out the peace plan, and reiterated that Mr. Assad will be judged by his actions.

“Certainly we have not seen the promises that Assad made implemented. Obviously, the joint special envoy is continuing his work; his technical team continues its work in Syria. We will have the Friends of the Syrian People meeting this weekend, and I understand that Kofi Annan will also be making a report to the Security Council on Monday. So it is incumbent on all of us to keep the pressure on Assad to meet the commitment that he's made, and that's our intention over the next few days.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Syria's implementation of Mr. Annan's plan is “more important than acceptance” and represents a “last chance” for the country to resolve its crisis peacefully.

A Syrian official said his government will reject any resolution passed by the Arab League on Syria. The bloc suspended Syria's membership last year to punish Damascus for continuing the deadly crackdown.

Also Wednesday, senior U.S. senators filed a resolution condemning Syria's bloody violence and urging the arming of anti-government rebels. Senator John McCain presented the motion, co-sponsored by four other senators including Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman. The text condemns “the mass atrocities committed by the government of Syria and [supports] the right of the people of Syria to be safe and to defend themselves.”

The non-binding resolution “supports calls by Arab leaders to provide the people of Syria with the means to defend themselves against Bashar al-Assad and his forces, including through the provision of weapons and other material support.”

Meanwhile, several-hundred exiled Syrian opposition figures ended a meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday by declaring the Syrian National Council to be the “formal interlocutor and formal representative of the Syrian people.” Most participants signed on to the declaration. Some dissidents walked out of the talks on Tuesday, accusing the SNC of not listening to differing views about how to end decades of autocratic government in Syria.

The United Nations said Tuesday the number of people killed in Syria's crackdown has risen to more than 9,000, an increase of about 1,000 over the world body's previous estimate.