Middle East

Arab League to call for UN backing on Syria plan

Arab League observers in Deraa (5 January 2012)
Image caption The Arab League sent observers to Syria earlier this month

The Arab League is to ask the United Nations Security Council to back its plan to end the violence in Syria.

On Sunday, the League called for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to step down and hand power to his deputy.

The organisation's chief Nabil al-Arabi and the Qatari prime minister are to travel to New York on Saturday to seek support for its proposals.

Meanwhile, there are reports of renewed clashes between security forces and protesters near the capital Damascus.

On Thursday, activists say security forces launched an offensive against the Damascus suburb of Douma, days after pulling out following intense clashes with anti-regime fighters.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has visited Douma and says the centre of the town is in the hands of the rebel Free Syrian Army, made up mainly of defectors from President Assad's forces.

'Flagrant interference'

Mr Arabi said he and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani were to "hold a meeting with the UN Security Council on Monday to seek ratification of the Arab League decision on Syria".

The League's plan also calls for Syria to form a national unity government with the opposition within two months.

The Syrian government has already rejected the plan, calling it "flagrant interference" in Syria's internal affairs.

It says it is fighting "terrorists and armed gangs" and claims that some 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed.

Some 5,000 people have died since the crackdown which began last March, the UN says.

Russia has said it would consider "constructive proposals" to end the the violence but was opposed the use of force or sanctions against its Syrian ally.

Russia and China have already vetoed one resolution condemning the crackdown by the Syrian government.

Diplomats say European and Arab governments are drafting a new text they hope to put to a vote in the Security Council early next week.