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Arab ministers seek action on Annan plan
Baghdad, March 28, 2012
Arab foreign ministers on Wednesday called for a UN-backed peace plan for Syria to be put into action after President Bashar Al-Assad agreed to the proposal.
The plan urges an end to violence but does not demand the Syrian leader step down.
Arab leaders in Baghdad for an Arab League summit were expected to endorse the six-point proposal from UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, which seeks a ceasefire and political dialogue in what Iraq called a 'last chance' for Syria.
Annan's proposal calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centres, humanitarian assistance, the release of prisoners and free movement and access for journalists. But it does not hinge on Assad leaving office.
Arab states backed away from their initial proposal demanding that Assad step down after Russia and China vetoed UN draft resolutions condemning him.
'Syria's accepting the plan is a very important step,' Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters in Baghdad.
'This is the last chance for Syria and it must be implemented on the ground.'
The Annan proposal is the latest attempt to broker an end to more than a year of violence in Syria after Assad sent troops into cities to try to crush rebels seeking to end his 12-year rule.
Zebari said the League would not accept foreign intervention in Syria. But Damascus responded that it would reject any initiatives made at the summit relating to Syria, according to the Lebanese TV channel al-Manar.
The Arab League suspended Syria last year and has in the past called on Assad to step aside to allow talks. But members are split over how to handle increasing violence that threatens to inflame the region's complex ethnic and sectarian mix.
Sunni powers Saudi Arabia and Qatar have led the push to isolate Syria, but other non-Gulf Arab states such as Algeria, Egypt and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government urge more caution, fearing that toppling Assad could spark sectarian violence.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the League would try to agree on how to implement the Annan plan, including possible talks with Assad's opponents, but gave no details. -Reuters