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Arabs seek time frame for UN plan on Syria (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By DPA 06/03/12)Source: http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/arabs-seek-time-frame-for-un-plan-on-syria-1.434015 HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
A committee of Arab government ministers on Syria on Saturday called for a time frame for a peace plan drafted by international envoy Kofi Annan, in a move designed to pressure President Bashar Assad´s regime to fully implement the hitherto-faltering plan.

"We request Mr. Annan to set a time frame for his mission because it is unacceptable that massacres and bloodshed continue while the mission is going on indefinitely," the committee´s head, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, said at a meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha. Annan was present at the meeting.

"The decision is to place more pressure on the Syrian regime to observe a permanent cease-fire," Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi told reporters following the meeting.

The Qatari premier, whose country has been lobbying for international pressure on Damascus due to Syria´s 15-month deadly crackdown on pro- democracy protesters, accused Assad of ignoring Annan´s plan.

The plan calls for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from population centers, the release of detainees, and access for humanitarian aid to needed areas.

Arabi was quoted as telling the committee that the mandate of the UN observers currently in Syria should be extended, or that they should be turned into a peacekeeping force.

Chaired by Qatar, the ministerial committee also includes Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Violence has intensified in Syria, despite the presence on the ground of the nearly 300 UN observers, tasked by the UN Security Council to supervise a cease-fire. The truce has been repeatedly breached since it went into effect on April 12.

Arabi said he had sent a letter to the UN and the Security Council, demanding "a firm effort to implement their resolutions."

"I urge you to move quickly to end all acts of violence taking place in Syria, and to take the necessary measures to protect Syrian civilians, including increasing the number of international monitors and allowing them the necessary powers to stop the violations and crimes being committed," Arabi was quoted by Qatar´s state news agency as saying.

Speaking at the opening of the Doha meeting, Annan said that "the specter of all-out war in Syria is increasing," and expressed fears that the deteriorating situation in Syria had started to spill over into neighboring countries - a reference to Lebanon.

"He [Assad] must make bold and visible steps immediately to radically change his military posture and honor his commitment ... What is important is not the words he uses, but the action he takes - now," Annan added.

At least 10 people were killed and 35 wounded on Saturday in renewed clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian government in northern Lebanon, according to police sources.

Machine guns were used in the clashes, which broke out overnight in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli, sources said.

The rival factions were reportedly from the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabanneh, which supports the Syrian opposition, and the region of Jabal Mohsen, inhabited by pro-Syrian Shiite Alawites, to which Assad belongs. Such clashes have occasionally flared up between the two groups since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011.

Meanwhile, at least 22 people, including 14 Syrian soldiers, were killed in violence in several parts of Syria, according to opposition activists.

Opposition rebels announced on Saturday that they would resume "defensive operations" against Assad´s forces, after a deadline they set for his regime to abide by the UN-brokered cease- fire expired.

News from Syria is hard to independently verify, as the government has barred most foreign media from the restive areas since the pro- democracy uprising started in the country in March 2011. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 06/03/12)

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