Syria rejects Arab troop deployment
DAMASCUS - Syria rejected on Tuesday a Qatari proposal to deploy Arab troops to halt 10 months of deadly unrest, as army defectors and a tribal leader appealed to the UN Security Council to intervene.
"Syria rejects the statements of officials of Qatar on sending Arab troops to worsen the crisis ... and pave the way for foreign intervention," the foreign ministry said.
"The Syrian people refuse any foreign intervention in any name. They will oppose any attempt to undermine the sovereignty of Syria and the integrity of its territory," the ministry said.
"It would be regrettable for Arab blood to flow on Syria's territory to serve known (interests)," a statement added, without elaborating.
In an interview with US television aired at the weekend, Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, said he favoured sending Arab troops to Syria to "stop the killing."
The Arab League is due to discuss the crisis in Syria on Saturday and Sunday, and is expected to discuss the future of its widely criticised observer mission in the country.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad Eddin Othmani said the meetings would "decide on how to continue the mission and what shape it should take," based on a report to be delivered by the observers' chief.
From its base in Turkey, the rebel Free Syrian Army called on the Arab League to "quickly transfer the case of Syria to the UN Security Council," in a statement signed by its leader Riyadh al-Asaad, a dissident colonel.
The United Nations has pledged to assist the Arab mission deployed in Syria since last month, saying on Monday it would start training the bloc's observers within days.
But the rebels demanded bolder action from the world body, urging it to "act quickly against the regime through Chapter Seven of the UN Charter to maintain peace."
Chapter Seven provides for UN forces to initiate military action, not simply act in self-defence.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said "the situation in Syria has reached an unacceptable point" and urged the Security Council to respond with "seriousness and gravity and in a coherent manner."
But tough action by the council has been repeatedly blocked by Damascus allies China and Russia, which vetoed a Western draft UN resolution in October that would have condemned the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia, which has accused the West of eyeing Libya-style regime change in Syria, distributed on Monday a new draft that would blames both sides for the crisis and oppose strong UN action, Western diplomats said.
France rejected the latest Russian text, saying it fell "very far from responding to the reality of the situation in Syria," and Britain said a Security Council resolution on Syria was "long overdue."
And US President Barack Obama, during White House talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II, said "we continue to see unacceptable levels of violence inside that country.
"We will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourage the current Syrian regime to step aside so that a more democratic process and transition can take place inside of Syria."
Syria's warning against the deployment of Arab troops comes amid signs of stronger coordination between military and political opponents of Assad's regime.
The Syrian National Council, a political umbrella group, said it has opened a liaison office and hotline with the armed rebels to follow developments on the ground.
The rebels claim to have gathered some 40,000 fighters under their command since anti-government protests broke out in mid-March.
Dissident tribal chief Nawaf al-Bashir warned that the rebels will be forced to intensify their armed struggle if the Security Council fails to act.
"If the Security Council does not take the necessary decisions, then Syria's revolutionaries and the Free Syrian Army will be forced to act for themselves," Bashir said in Istanbul.
In fresh violence on Tuesday, at least 20 civilians were killed, eight of them when a blast hit a minibus in Idlib province in the northwest, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since the protests erupted in March, the United Nations estimated last month.
Meanwhile, a senior military official in Israel said his country had serious concerns about what will happen to "huge stockpiles" of chemical and biological weapons if the Assad regime collapses.