Syria Rejects Calls By Arab League For President Assad To Step Aside
Syria has condemned a move by the Arab League to call for the "peaceful departure" of President Bashar al-Assad, describing it as a "conspiracy" which violates the will of its people.
The Arab League had called on Assad to step aside and cede power to his vice president. The 22-member League also asked for democratic elections to be held under a national unity government.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who is the prime minister of Qatar, said that there had to be "a referendum and preparation for new elections".
"The Arab League's secretary-general is to send a new special envoy to Syria, and will call on the international community to support this national unity government to fulfil its functions."
Al Thani said the League would ask the UN Security Council to support its transition plan, and demanded the government restart a dialogue with opposition figures within a fortnight.
But a Syrian government source, quoted by state television and reported by Al Jazeera, said that the resolution passed on Sunday was a violation of national sovereignty.
According to the BBC the government source said the plan was "flagrant interference".
The Arab League has been in Syria since December in an attempt to monitor the security situation and stop the violence against civilians.
The 165-strong mission has been criticised as lacking enough manpower to complete the job and effectively keep tabs on the vast country.
Saudi Arabia has already said it would be pulling out of the mission because of broken promises on the part of the Assad regime over halting the violence against civilians.
According to the UN more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria by government since the start of anti-government protests in March last year.
Activists including the global protest network Avaaz have said that 1,000 people have been killed since the Arab League mission began.
Assad's regime claims that 2,000 members of its security forces have been killed and says it is fighting domestic terrorists.