Syria told to withdraw tanks
The Arab League yesterday revealed that its proposed roadmap to end violence in Syria includes the withdrawal of tanks from Syrian streets as well as talks in Cairo between the regime and its opponents.
Arab foreign ministers put the proposals to a Syrian delegation led by Foreign Minister Walid Muallem during talks in Doha on Sunday and were now waiting for a response, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi told AFP in the Qatari capital.
The talks come amid growing fears among regional leaders that unchecked Syrian bloodshed could further inflame the Arab world, and as Nato categorically ruled out a Libya-style intervention in Syria.
"The Arab proposal to Syria calls for withdrawing tanks and all military vehicles to bring an immediate end to the violence and give assurances to the Syrian street," said Arabi.
The peace plan also calls for dialogue to take place in Cairo between Syrian regime officials and opposition figures, he added, before leaving Doha yesterday afternoon without indicating if a response had been received from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who arrived in Tripoli yesterday to mark the end of the alliance's air war in Libya, ruled out the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Syria.
"It's totally ruled out. We have no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria," Rasmussen told an AFP correspondent travelling with him.
"We have no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria," he insisted, saying the conditions there were different to those in Libya.
"First of all we took on the responsibility for the operation in Libya because there was a clear UN mandate, because we had strong and active support from the countries in the region," Rasmussen said.
The region is reeling from unprecedented uprisings that have since January unseated three long-time dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
Repeating previous warnings, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told reporters that Assad risks forcing an international intervention if he allows the violence to continue.
"The entire region is at risk of a massive storm," Sheikh Hamad told reporters after Sunday's three-hour meeting.
Assad must take "concrete steps" to end the unrest that according to the United Nations has claimed more than 3,000 Syrian lives since March, he said.
Sunday's Arab ministerial meeting "agreed on a serious proposal to stop the killing and all forms of violence in Syria," Sheikh Hamad said.
A follow-up meeting will be held Wednesday in Cairo, "whether or not there is an agreement," he added.
Assad warned in a newspaper interview that any Western intervention in Syria would cause an "earthquake" across the Middle East.
"Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region," Syria's embattled president told Britain's Sunday Telegraph.
The Daily Telegraph quoted Assad yesterday dismissing the Syrian opposition as unrepresentative elements who did not deserve his time.
"I wouldn't waste my time talking about them," he said. "I don't know them. It's better to investigate whether they really represent Syrians."