News / Middle East

    Syria Rejects Qatar's Call for Arab Troops

    Armed members of the Free Syrian Army are seen in the western border town of Zabadani, Syria, in this undated photo, January 16, 2012.
    Armed members of the Free Syrian Army are seen in the western border town of Zabadani, Syria, in this undated photo, January 16, 2012.

    Syria has rejected a Qatari proposal to send Arab troops to the country to stop 10 months of unrest, saying such a move would worsen the situation and open the door for foreign interference.

    In a statement Tuesday, the Syrian foreign ministry says Damascus will oppose any attempt to undermine its sovereignty, and wants Arab nations to stop what it calls a media campaign against Syria.

    Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani proposed deploying Arab troops in Syria last week, saying the move is needed to "stop the killing." He is the first Arab leader to back that idea. Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League are due to discuss the next steps in their response to the Syrian crisis at meeting on Sunday.

    Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov on Tuesday as saying Russia will not support sending Arab peacekeepers to Syria. In an interview with the BBC, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaliy Churkin called the Qatari proposal a "distraction" and an "irritant."  

    Experts from the 15-member U.N. Security Council were due to meet Tuesday to discuss a revised Russian draft resolution on resolving the Syrian crisis. Gatilov said Moscow wants a resolution that rules out the use of force in Syria, and puts an equal burden on the government and the opposition to end violence and start negotiations.

    Western powers have been pushing the Security Council for months to condemn the Syrian government for its violent suppression of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. They also want the Council to impose sanctions on Damascus. Russia and China have blocked such measures.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Council on Monday to act in a "serious" and "coherent" manner on the unrest in Syria, where he says casualties have reached "unacceptable" levels.

    Sunday's Arab League meeting also will review a report by a group of Arab League observers sent to Syria last month to check on Assad's pledges to stop the crackdown and release detained opposition activists.

    Syrian opposition activists have criticized the observer mission, saying the Syrian government is deceiving it and using the monitors as a cover to intensify security operations against the opposition.

    The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,000 people. Syria says "terrorists" have killed about 2,000 members of the security forces since the unrest began.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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