Syria rejects mission, civil war warning
Damascus, November 20, 2011
Syria said an Arab League plan to send a monitoring mission to Syria will compromise the country's sovereignty and dismissed as "wishful thinking" a warning by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the country risked descending into civil war.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told reporters in the Syrian capital that the proposed mission has "pervasive jurisdiction that reaches the level of violating Syrian sovereignty" and said he would send the Arab League a letter with questions about its role.
"We will reply to the Arab League secretary general by responsibly presenting a number of queries," Moualem said.
Earlier, the League said it had rebuffed a request by Damascus to amend plans for a 500-strong monitoring mission to Syria.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby rejected Syria's request to alter a plan for the fact-finding mission -- which would include military personnel and human rights experts -- in a letter to Syria's foreign minister.
"The additions requested by the Syrian counterpart affect the heart of the protocol and fundamentally change the nature of the mission," said the letter, released by the Arab League.
The Cairo-based League had given Damascus three days from a meeting on November 16 to abide by a deal to withdraw military forces from restive cities, start talks between the government and opposition and pave the way for an observer team.
It was not immediately clear what action the Arab League would take after the deadline passed unheeded by Damascus. The pan-Arab body had threatened sanctions for non-compliance, and it suspended Syria's membership in a surprise move last week.
"Although the time-frame has ended, there have been no meetings or calls for meetings except at the level of delegations (to the League)," a representative of one Arab state at the League told Reuters.
In a statement, the League said it remained committed to a peaceful, Arab-engineered solution to the Syrian upheaval, touched off by other Arab popular revolts that have overthrown the autocratic leaders of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya this year.
On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops manning roadblocks in Homs fired on residential areas and wounded three protesters. In the nearby town of Talbiseh, security forces delivered the bodies of two men arrested last month and in Idlib another two civilians were killed in military operations, the British-based group said.
Non-Arab Turkey, once an ally of Assad, is also taking an increasingly tough attitude to Damascus. Turkish newspapers said on Saturday Ankara had contingency plans to create no-fly or buffer zones to protect civilians in neighbouring Syria if the bloodshed worsens.
"It's almost certain that Bashar Al-Assad's regime is going down, all the assessments are made based on this assumption.
Foreign Ministry sources say that the sooner the regime goes down, the better for Turkey," one Turkish paper reported. - Reuters