Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Arab League urges Syria talks within 15 days

RIA Novosti

06:22 17/10/2011 CAIRO, October 17 (RIA Novosti) - The foreign ministers of the Arab League member states have called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition to begin talks within 15 days in order to prevent a further escalation of violence.

"The Arab League will establish all necessary contacts with the Syrian government and all opposition forces in order to hold a national dialogue conference under the auspices of the Arab League in its headquarters within 15 days," Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani said after an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo on Sunday.

The 22-member organization agreed to set up a special commission involving the foreign ministers of Qatar, Algeria, Oman, Sudan and Egypt, as well as Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elarabi, to maintain contacts with the Syrian government and the opposition and look into what it called the "catastrophic and sad situation in Syria."

More than 100 civil society groups issued on Sunday a collective appeal to Elarabi to isolate the Syrian government. Representatives of the Syrian diaspora in Egypt staged a protest outside the Arab League headquarters demanding that Syria's membership in the organization be suspended.

In February, the Arab League suspended Libya's participation in its council meetings over Col. Muammar Gaddafi's crackdown on protesters.

As the foreign ministers convened, Syrian security forces carried out raids and made arrests on Sunday. At least 19 people were reported to have been arrested in Dumeir, some 40 kilometers north-east of Damascus, with another 25 people detained in the city of Zabadani at the border with Lebanon.

The United Nations says 3,000 people, including at least 187 children, have died in Syria since protests against Assad's authoritarian rule broke out in mid-March.

As the country slides further into disorder seven months into the uprising, a group of Syrian opposition leaders established the Transitional National Council to coordinate efforts aimed at toppling the Assad regime.

Late last week, Assad signed a decree to draft a new constitution within four months to meet the opposition's prime demand. Muhamed Buheitan, deputy general secretary of the ruling Baath Party, said the new draft constitution would have to be approved by two thirds of the parliament and then put for vote at a national referendum.

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