Syria won't accept Arab solutions to crisis - FM Moualem

  • World
  • Tuesday, 24 Jan 2012

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria will no longer accept Arab League solutions to its 10-month crisis, whether it takes its proposals to the United Nations "or to the moon," its foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Walid al-Moualem said the Arab League knew in advance that Syria would never accept its call on Sunday for President Bashar al-Assad to step down and make way for a unity government to halt the bloodshed of a 10-month anti-government uprising.

"Definitely the solution in Syria is not the solution proposed by the Arab League, which we have rejected," Moualem told a news conference. "They have abandoned their role as the Arab League and we no longer want Arab solutions to the crisis."

"Half the universe is against us," he said, but added that Syria's long-time ally and arms supplier Russia would never allow foreign intervention. "That is a red line for them."

The government deployed troops and tanks to crack down on the protest movement that began in March and has since fuelled an armed insurgency.

Damascus says it is fighting foreign-backed militants who have killed 2,000 members of its security forces. The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the army's crackdown.

The Arab League sent in monitors a month ago to check wether the country was implementing a peace plan that would see it withdraw its forces from cities, release detainees and start a dialogue with the opposition.

The monitors' report after their first month in Syria said heavy military equipment had been withdrawn but the plan had not been fully implemented.

Moualem suggested the security forces' crackdown would not stop. "The security solution is the public's demand," he said. "It is Syria's right and duty to deal with the gunmen."

He said the number of civilians, soldiers and policemen killed in Syria had tripled since monitors arrived, accusing rebels of "exploiting their (the monitors') presence.

The Arab League has formally requested a one-month extension of its mission's mandate, but on Tuesday, Gulf states followed Saudi Arabia's lead and withdrew their observer teams, shortly before Moualem's news conference began.

Moualem said Syria was still studying the possibility of allowing the extension.

He accused some in the Arab League, which called on the United Nations Security Council to endorse its plan for a unity government, of plotting foreign intervention.

"Heading to the Security Council will be the third stage in their plan, and the only thing left is the last step of internationalisation," he said, adding that Syria would not be intimidated should the League refer the issue to the UN Security Council in New York.

"They can head to New York or to the moon. So long as we are not paying for their tickets it is none of our concern."

(Writing by Erika Solomon; editing by Tim Pearce)

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