Arabs seek time frame for UN plan on Syria (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By DPA 06/03/12)
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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
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,"
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
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-
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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