Syria rejects new Arab League plan to end violence

Syria rejected Monday a new Arab League plan aiming to end the country's 10-month crisis by calling on the government and the opposition to form a national unity government within two months.

The Syrian statement carried by the state-run news agency SANA came a day after Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani told reporters in Cairo that the Arab League was launching a new initiative to solve the crisis.

The Syrian uprising began in March following popular revolts that overthrew long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. President Bashar Assad retaliated with a deadly crackdown that the U.N. says has left more than 5,400 people dead.

A statement issued by Arab foreign ministers after a Sunday Arab League meeting in Cairo called for the establishment of a national unity government within two months, in which the government and the opposition are included, and which is led by a figure of consensus.

The mandate of this government, said the statement, is to prepare for free parliamentary and presidential elections to be held under Arab and international supervision.

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It also provides for Assad to give his vice president full powers to cooperate with the proposed government to enable it to carry out its duties during a transitional period.

SANA quoted an unnamed official as saying Syria considers the plan "a violation of its sovereignty and a flagrant interference in its internal affairs." It added that the plan comes as part of the "conspiracy Syria is being subjected to."

The Syrian government blames the violence in Syria on terrorists and armed gangs that it claims are part of a foreign conspiracy to destabilize the country.

The Local Coordination Committees opposition group also criticized the Arab League plan saying it gives the Syrian regime "a new opportunity, time and cover, in its attempt to bury the revolution."

The LCC said the Arab League should declare that it failed to end the crisis, and ask for help from the "United Nations to force the regime to comply with the demands of the opposition."

Arab League foreign ministers also extended the much-criticized observers mission for another month, according to a statement from the 22-member organization.

The Arab League faced three options Sunday: ending the mission and giving up its initiative, extending it, or turning the crisis over to the U.N. Security Council, as some opposition groups have urged. There, however, it would face a possible stalemate because of disagreements among permanent members over how far to go in forcing Assad's hand.

The mission's one-month mandate technically expired on Thursday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told reporters that his country will pull out its observers because "the Syrian government did not implement the Arab plan." He urged Muslim countries, China, Russia, Europe and the U.S. to put pressure on Assad's government to stop the violence.

Saudi Arabia has been one of the harshest Arab critics of the crackdown, It recalled its ambassador from Damascus last year in protest.