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Arab League Suspends Syria Mission Amid Increasing Violence


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

The Arab League says its monitoring mission to Syria has been frozen given the escalation of violence in the country.

The Arab League issued a statement saying the activity of the around 100 monitors still in Syria had been stopped with immediate effect.

In the latest violence, activists say 40 people were killed across the country on January 27.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and the prime minister of Qatar are heading to New York to seek UN support for an Arab League plan to end Syria's crisis.

Their trip comes after the UN Security Council discussed a European-Arab draft resolution on Syria based on the Arab League plan.

The plan says President Bashar al-Assad should step down to make way for a interim government before elections.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the resolution was unacceptable in parts, but that Russia was ready to "engage" on it.

In particular, Churkin said no outcome could not be imposed on Syria before a dialogue starts between Assad's government and the opposition.

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong simply said "we will have to see" on the new draft resolution.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud said that while the cosponsors of the resolution were willing to negotiate, there was no alternative to a political solution in Syria.

WATCH -- Heavy shelling and gunfire rock the Syrian city of Hama on January 27:

"We are facing a major crisis. ... More than 5,500 people have been killed. The country is sinking into civil war. We are desperately looking for a political solution. And unfortunately, or fortunately, there is, again, there is no alternative," Araud told reporters after the Security Council meeting. "We have here the League of Arab States, which is proposing a solution. So our reaction is simply to support it. But again, there is nothing else."

Speaking before the meeting, German Ambassador Peter Wittig said, "Today, we will hear our Moroccan colleague presenting an Arab-European draft to address the situation in Syria. In the draft, the philosophy of it is to basically support the Arab League initiative and give it the necessary weight of the Security Council. So we hope that now council members seize this new window of opportunity that we have and find common ground."

Britain and France said they hope to put the resolution to a vote next week after a briefing on January 31 by Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby and the Qatari prime minister.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari accused the UN of trying to decide Syria's fate without consulting with Damascus.

"The important part of this, gentlemen, is that they are talking about my country without consulting us, without sharing with us their concerns, their remarks," Ja'afari said. "They think that Syria doesn't exist, it doesn't have an ambassador here, and that we are still under their hegemony. And they deal with us as if we are a former colony that we should subjugate ourselves to their will."

Ja'afari also said Syria would be no Libya, whose leader, Muammar Qaddafi, was overthrown with help from NATO.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in a 10-month crackdown on antigovernment protesters.

Compiled from agency reports, with contributions from RFE/RL's Courtney Brooks at the UN

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