Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem has strongly criticized the Arab League's latest initiative for ending Syria's 10-month opposition uprising, calling it a "plot" to internationalize the crisis.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Moallem said his counterparts at the 22-member Arab League approved a plan they knew Syria would reject as a violation of its sovereignty.
The initiative adopted on Sunday requires Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to a deputy and form a national unity government within two months to prepare for national elections under Arab and international supervision.
The Arab League said Tuesday its chief Nabil Elaraby and Qatar's prime minister sent a joint letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requesting a meeting to push for U.N. Security Council support of the plan. In a separate statement, the six Gulf Arab nations urged the Security Council to take all necessary measures to force Syria to comply with the Arab League proposals.
Moallem said Syria's key military ally Russia, however, will not allow foreign interference in Syrian affairs. Moscow has used its Security Council veto to block Western efforts to punish Syria for trying to crush the uprising against Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council also said Tuesday its members are withdrawing from an Arab League observer mission to Syria to protest what they call Damascus' failure to honor pledges to stop suppressing the revolt. Saudi Arabia was the first GCC member to announce a pullout from the monitoring team on Sunday.
Syrian Foreign Minister Moallem said Damascus has a "duty" to take action against armed groups spreading chaos in the country.
Arab League ambassadors were due to meet later Tuesday to discuss the fate of the Syria observer mission following the GCC's decision to withdraw from it.
Arab League foreign ministers had agreed Sunday to extend the team's one-month mandate by another month and provide it with more resources. The Sudanese chief of the observer mission, General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said on Monday that violence in Syria declined after the monitors began work on December 26.
The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syrian authorities say terrorists have killed about 2,000 security force members since the unrest began.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.