January 23, 2012

Syria Rejects Arab League Call for Power Transfer

The Syrian government has rejected an Arab League plan for President Bashar al-Assad to transfer powers to his deputy, accusing the league of trying to interfere in Syria's internal affairs.
Syrian state television quoted government officials Monday as rejecting the proposed initiative, calling it “a flagrant interference.”

A day earlier, Arab League foreign ministers called on the Syrian government to begin a national dialogue with the opposition within two weeks and to form a new government in two months. This would be a prelude to early parliamentary and presidential elections.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said the league plans to take its initiative to the United Nations Security Council and ask for its endorsement.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal announced his country is withdrawing its observers from Syria. He said the decision is in protest of what he called Syria's failure to respect an earlier Arab League plan to end the violent crackdown on a 10-month opposition uprising.
Prince Saud urged the international community – including Syrian allies Russia and China – to use “all possible pressure” to persuade Mr. Assad's government to implement the earlier plan. That proposal calls for the withdrawal of government forces from residential areas, the release of political prisoners, free access for the media, and dialogue with government opponents.
Saudi Arabia has been one of the harshest Arab critics of Mr. Assad's crackdown on the rebellion against his 11-year autocratic rule.

On Monday, European Union foreign ministers adopted more sanctions against Mr. Assad's government, targeting 22 people and eight companies. In addition to sanctions, the EU has been enforcing an arms embargo on the Syrian government.
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.

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