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Syria FM signals crackdown will continue

Syrian News

Breaking News/BEIRUT: Syria’s foreign minister said Tuesday that “half the universe” is conspiring against his country and that the government will take any steps to defend against chaos, signaling that Damascus will continue its 10-month crackdown on dissent despite mounting pressure from Arab countries.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem spoke as Gulf Arab countries announced they were pulling their monitors from an Arab League mission in Syria.

The Gulf Cooperation Council also called on the U.N. Security Council to take all “necessary measures” to force Syria to implement a League peace plan announced Sunday, which Damascus has rejected.

Al-Moallem brushed off the threat of the Security Council.

“If they go to (U.N. headquarters in) New York or the moon, as long as we don’t pay their tickets, this is their business,” he told reporters at a televised news conference.

He also suggested that the military crackdown will continue.

“It is the duty of the Syrian government to take what it sees as necessary measures to deal with those armed groups that spread chaos,” he said.

Syria has long held that a foreign conspiracy is behind the uprising, not peaceful protesters seeking change in one of the most authoritarian states in the Middle East. On Tuesday, al-Moallem said it was clear that some Arab countries have joined the conspiracy.

Shortly before al-Moallem’s appearance, the GCC announced that it was withdrawing from the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria because of the country’s failure to implement League measures aimed at ending 10 months of violence.

“The decision was made after careful and thorough monitoring of events in Syria and the conviction by the GCC that the bloodshed and the killing of innocent people there is continuing,” the statement by the six-nation GCC said.

An official at the Cairo-based Arab League said an emergency meeting of permanent representatives of the group’s 22 members will be held later Tuesday in the Egyptian capital to “review the situation” following the GCC’s decision.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The GCC, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, has long advocated referring Syria to the Security Council, putting it in conflict with other Arab states.

Its statement called on the international community “to shoulder its responsibilities,” and said that the Security Council should take the “necessary measures” to make Damascus comply with an Arab League initiative, which calls for the creation of a national unity government in two months to preside over a transition leading to elections.

The proposal 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.

Damascus has rejected it as a violation of national sovereignty.

The 150-member observer mission, which includes 30 monitors from the Gulf nations, has encountered heavy criticism for its failure to stop the Assad regime’s crackdown, which along with other violence has left an estimated 5,400 dead.

Saudi Arabia had announced Monday that it would pull out its observers.

“This is their business,” al-Moallem said. “Maybe the Saudi brothers in the mission don’t want to see the realities on the ground, which don’t satisfy their plots,” he added./AP

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