Arab League Pushes Plan to End Violence in Syria
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JEFFREY BROWN: And to Syria, where there was word of a possible agreement to end months of political upheaval and deadly violence.
Eight months into Syria’s version of the Arab spring, and there’s no end to the bloodshed. At least 20 more people were reported killed overnight in Homs, after protesters took to the streets again. In all, at least 3,000 civilians have been killed by security forces, according to U.N. estimates.
But, today, a possible accord was announced. Members of the Arab League meeting at the group’s Cairo headquarters reported a deal with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
HAMAD BIN JASSIM, foreign minister of Qatar (through translator): Our brothers in Syria accepted the Arab League proposal. We are happy to reach this agreement and we will be happier that it will be enforced immediately. But when I say immediately, I don’t mean that as an order, but I say immediately out of concern from our brotherhood and our brothers in Syria.
JEFFREY BROWN: Tanks and troops would be taken off the streets, the crackdowns would end, a dialogue with protesters would begin, and journalists and rights groups would be allowed to monitor the situation inside Syria.
But all this drew a cautious reception in Washington. White House officials called again for Assad to step down. And a State Department spokeswoman questioned the Syrian leader’s real intentions.
VICTORIA NULAND, State Department spokeswoman: Syria’s made a lot of promises to the international community in the past. There is concern that, even as say they’re prepared for peace, they’re still exacting violence and brutality on their own people.
JEFFREY BROWN: In Cairo, protesters outside the Arab League offices denounced Assad and renewed calls for more vigorous international involvement.
MAN (through translator): We are demanding a no-fly zone and the suspension of Syrian membership in the Arab League.
JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, some Syrians both inside and outside the country are now calling for NATO-led action, modeled on the bombing campaign in Libya that helped topple Moammar Gadhafi.
But in Tripoli on Monday, NATO’s secretary-general categorically rejected another alliance action.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO secretary-general: I can completely rule that out. Having said that, I strongly condemn the crackdowns on the civilian population in Syria.
JEFFREY BROWN: For now then, the focus is on the Arab League proposal. It mandates that Assad conform within two weeks. But it doesn’t mention any consequences if he fails to do so.