Thousands on streets as Syria rejects peace plan


Syria rejected the Arab League's wide-ranging new plan to end the country's 10-month crisis yesterday, saying the League's call for a national-unity government in two months is a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty.

Meanwhile, thousands of people poured into the streets in a suburb of the capital, Damascus, to mourn 11 residents who were either shot dead by security forces or killed in clashes between army defectors and troops a day earlier, activists said. The crowd in Douma – which one activist said was 60,000-strong – was under the protection of dozens of army defectors who are in control of the area after regime forces pulled out late on Sunday, Samer al-Omar, who lives in Douma, said. The reports could not be independently confirmed.

President Bashar al-Assad blames the uprising that erupted in March on terrorists and armed gangs who are part of a foreign conspiracy to destabilise the country. Mr Assad's regime has retaliated with a brutal crackdown that the UN says has killed more than 5,400 people. But there is growing urgency to find a resolution to a crisis that is growing increasingly violent as regime opponents and army defectors who have switched sides have started to fight back against government forces.

The Arab League has tried to stem the bloodshed by condemning the crackdown, imposing sanctions and sending a team of observers to the country. On Sunday, the League called for a unity government within two months ; it would then prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held under Arab and international supervision.

The proposal also provides for Mr Assad to give his Vice-President full powers to co-operate with the proposed government to enable it to carry out its duties during a transitional period.

The state-run news agency, Sana, said Damascus considers the plan "flagrant interference in its internal affairs".

It was not clear what steps, if any, Syria could take to counter the Arab League's stance. The EU backed the Arab plan on Monday and extended existing sanctions against Syria.