Arab summit will not urge Assad to quit, says chief

AFP , Sunday 25 Mar 2012

Arab League Secretary General told daily newspaper Al-Hayat on Sunday that he does not expect the summit to call on the Syrian President to step down

The Arab League, which is holding its annual summit in Iraq this week, will not call for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to resign, the group's secretary general said in comments published on Sunday.

Nabil El-Arabi told pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat Assad's response to proposals by international envoy Kofi Annan to end the bloodshed in Syria was "insufficient," and said he planned to submit a report on the crisis to summit leaders.

Asked in an interview if it was unlikely that the Arab League would call for Assad's resignation during the meeting, Arabi replied: "That is correct."

Annan was in Moscow on Sunday to shore up vital backing from Russia which, along with China, has already blocked two UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters that the opposition says has killed at least 9,100 people since March last year.

International and regional efforts to end the violence in Syria hinge on sustained pressure by both China and Russia on their Arab ally.

Annan's meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev comes just days after Russia finally backed a Security Council statement calling on Assad's forces to pull out of protest cities.

Annan will also travel to Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday.

His peace plan calls for a UN-supervised halt to fighting, with the government pulling troops and heavy weapons out of protest cities, a daily two-hour humanitarian pause to hostilities and access to all areas affected by the fighting.

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