The Arab League on Sunday rejected amendments proposed by Damascus to its proposal to send a 500-strong delegation to monitor the violence in Syria, saying they would radically alter the mission.
“It was agreed that the amendments and appendices proposed by the Syrian side affect the core of the document and would radically change the nature of the mission which is to oversee the implementation of the Arab plan to end the crisis in Syria and protect Syrian civilians,” the Arab League said in a statement.
The League on Nov. 16 had given Damascus three days to abide by a plan aimed at ending the violence and starting talks between the government and opposition. The plan included sending a monitoring team to Syria.
In related news, the opposition Syrian National Council announced Sunday a political program aimed at bringing down President Bashar al-Assad followed by a parliamentary election after a year’s transition.
In a statement received by AFP, the SNC said its goal was to “build a democratic, pluralistic, and civil state by ... breaking down the existing regime, including all of its operatives and symbols.”
The SNC, the country’s largest and most representative opposition group, said another objective was “preserving, protecting, and enhancing the peaceful nature of the popular revolution.”
The SNC said that after the fall of the Assad regime, it would “take responsibility, with the military apparatus, to manage the transitional period and guarantee the security and unity of the country” during the transition.
It would try to forge a “pluralistic ... parliamentary republic ... based on the principles of equal citizenship with separation of powers ... the rule of law, and the protection and guarantee of the rights of minorities.
“Within one year at most, the interim government will organise free elections with Arab and international observers to elect a Constitutional Assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution for the country that is then voted on by the people in a referendum,” said the statement.
“Free parliamentary elections shall be held within six months, in accordance with the new constitution.”
The SNC, which was formally founded in Istanbul on October 2, is made up of Assad’s opponents, including the committees organizing protests on the ground, the Muslim Brotherhood as well as various Kurdish and Assyrian parties.
So far it has only been recognized by Libya, where the National Transitional Council is now in power following a revolt that ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
France said Thursday that the Syrian opposition’s umbrella group needs to be better organized before it can win its recognition.
“We have contacts with them, I saw Burhan Ghaliun in Paris, who’s the president. We help them, we have contact and we encourage them to get organized,” Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said, referring to the head of the SNC.
The Assad regime is under mounting international pressure to halt its eight-month crackdown on pro-reform turned anti-regime protests, which the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people.
“No place for authoritarian regimes”
In comments published Sunday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said there was “no place for authoritarian regimes” in the Mediterranean region
“I strongly believe that there is no place any more for authoritarian regimes – single party systems that do not have accountability or transparency – on the shores of the Mediterranean,” he told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
“As someone who has studied in the United Kingdom, lived in the United Kingdom, has this world view, President Assad should be able to understand this.”
His comments, made before the expiry of the Arab League deadline at midnight Saturday (2200 GMT), was the latest criticism of Assad’s regime by Turkey.
Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has already announced a halt to joint oil exploration with Syria and has threatened to cut electricity exports to its neighbor.
But despite Ankara’s protests and the Arab League ultimatum, violence in Syria has shown no sign of abating and Assad has defiantly vowed to fight and die for his country if faced with foreign intervention.
In Sunday’s interview, Gul said he had been encouraging his Syrian counterpart to embark on democratic reforms before the uprising.
“We strongly advised him to hurry up and accelerate the pace of reforms,” he said.
“Otherwise, if he was not the leader of the change himself, then things would turn out to be too bad, we said to him.”