Sunday, 22 January 2012
Syria unrest: Arab League urges Assad to reform
The Arab League has outlined a series of reforms it wants Syria to undertake to end the violence in the country.
After a meeting in Cairo, the league called on the Syrian authorities to form a national unity government to include the opposition in two months.
The league also reiterated its demands that both sides end the bloodshed.
Earlier, Saudi Arabia said it was pulling out of the league's monitoring mission in Syria because Damascus had broken promises on peace initiatives.
The mission is due to be extended for another month, but analysts say the Saudi decision has thrown its longer-term future into serious doubt.
Saudi Arabia is one of the key funders of the league's projects, but the monitors have been criticised for failing to stop the violence.
Activists say almost 1,000 people have been killed since the monitoring mission began in December.
However, at a news conference in Cairo, the league's officials called for more support for their mission.
Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani read out a statement agreed by the league's foreign ministers laying out an ambitious plan of political reform.
It called on President Bashar al-Assad to delegate power to his vice-president to engage in proper dialogue with the opposition within two weeks, and form a government of national unity in two months.
They said this should eventually lead to multi-party elections overseen by international observers.
Sheikh Hamad said the league would seek the support of the UN Security Council for the changes.
But he added: "We're not talking about military intervention."
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says Mr Assad is likely to dismiss the league's initiative and say that he has his own political reform agenda.
Syria has been wracked by unrest since last March, when protesters gathered calling for reform.
Sporadic government crackdowns have followed, and the UN says more than 5,000 have died.
The government in Damascus says it is fighting terrorist and armed gangs, and claims that some 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed.