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Qatar PM: Syria Appears Unwilling to Change Course

Scott Stearns | State Department January 11, 2012

Qatar's prime minister said Wednesday that the Syrian government appears unwilling to change course and is continuing to attack its own people as the Arab League considers the effectiveness of its observer mission there. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautions that the monitoring mission can not continue indefinitely.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears unwilling to cooperate with Arab League efforts to resolve the political crisis.

Mr. bin Jassim said President Assad dismisses the Arab League as a group that has had nothing but six decades of failure. He says there are those who would judge four decades of rule in Syria in much the same way, but that is for the Syrian people to decide.

As government attacks continue, Mr. bin Jassim - who also is Qatar's foreign minister - says the most important thing now is for the killing to stop, for the Syrian military to withdraw from the streets, and for the government to release political prisoners.

He spoke to reporters following talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who commended Qatar's leadership in rallying the Arab world to end what she calls President Assad's assault against his own people.

"Two weeks ago, Arab League monitors arrived in Syria to judge whether the regime was keeping its promise to end the killings, withdraw its troops, release political prisoners and follow through on the commitments that it had made. So far, the regime has not done so," said Hillary Clinton.

The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 people have been killed in the protests against President Assad. He told crowds in the capital on Wednesday that “true patriots” are defending the nation. The speech followed a televised address the day before in which the Syrian leader vowed to use an “iron fist” against what he says is an international terrorist conspiracy.

Secretary Clinton said President Assad is blaming everyone accept those truly responsible for the violence.

"Instead of taking responsibility, what we hear from President Assad in his chillingly cynical speech yesterday was only making excuses, blaming foreign countries, conspiracies so vast that now it includes the Syrian opposition, the international community, all international media outlets, the Arab League itself," she said.

Secretary Clinton said she and Prime Minister bin Jassim agree that the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria should not continue indefinitely.

"We can not permit President Assad and his regime to have impunity," said Clinton. "Syrians deserve a peaceful transition.”

So far, Prime Minister bin Jassim said that the Arab League observer mission has not been a success, but that leaders will wait to make a full evaluation until after the observer mandate expires on January 19.

"We can not accept the situation as it is in Syria and the people killed by their own government," said bin Jassim. "I think it is an Arab responsibility, but it is also an international responsibility in the end.”

Mr. bin Jassim said regional leaders still hope to solve the Syrian conflict within the “House of the Arabs,” but that the Syrian government is not helping by continuing its daily killing of opponents.



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