Syria rejects Qatari call for Arab military intervention
Syria on Tuesday rejected a call from Qatar for an Arab military intervention to protect civilians as the United Nations Security Council prepared to discuss a revised Russian draft resolution to end the violence, dpa reported.
The Foreign Ministry said it strongly rejected any military intervention, adding it was surprised at the call made last week by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, who told US broadcaster CBS that some Arab troops should go in to stop the killing.
"Syria is surprised by some statements made by some Qatari officials calling for sending in Arab forces, and totally rejects such calls," the state-run Sana news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying.
Russia, a key ally of Syria, on Monday circulated a new draft resolution at the UN Security Council, an Arab diplomat in Beirut told dpa. It calls on the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop the violence and release prisoners.
It remains unclear if the Russian proposal, which rules out a Libya-style military intervention in Syria, meets demands by western powers for a tough-worded resolution that clearly condemns al-Assad for deadly violence against protesters demanding an end to his rule.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has already criticized the draft, saying it doesn't go far enough.
Russia and China in October vetoed a resolution that condemned the Syrian government and threatened sanctions if the government's crackdown continued. The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed since the protests erupted in mid-March.
An Arab League observer mission sent to Syria in late December is widely expected to report this week that the government had failed to comply with a peace plan.
At least 16 people were killed on Tuesday in Syria, which appears to be sliding toward a civil war.
Eight civilians were killed in a roadside bomb that hit a minibus travelling between the northwestern cities of Idlib and Aleppo, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Soldiers shelled the flashpoint city of Homs in central Syria, a hotbed of anti-government protests, killing eight people and wounding five others in the neighbourhoods of Baba Amr and Al Bayada.
Government forces also arrested 20 students in the university campus in Aleppo, the country's second largest city, where an anti-government rally had taken place.
Thousands of residents fled the Zabadani region near the border with Lebanon to escape shelling attacks by government forces, activists said.
Syria is facing increasing pressure to stop the violence. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged the Security Council to deal with the Syrian crisis "with a sense of gravity."
The Arab League has formally asked the UN to train its observers, the pan-Arab Al Arabiya broadcaster reported. The observers will submit their second report on Thursday and Arab foreign ministers will meet in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the mission's future.
The Syrian government blames the violence on "terrorists" and says some 2,000 soldiers and policemen have been killed.