x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Syria rejects any plans for an Arab League military presence

The foreign ministry said it would confront any attempt to infringe upon Syria's sovereignty and the integrity of its territories.

BEIRUT // Syria "absolutely rejects" any plans to send Arab troops into the country, the foreign ministry said yesterday.

Thousands of people have been killed in the regime's crackdown on the revolt, which has become militarised in recent months with a growing risk of civil war. The United Nations said about 400 people have been killed in the last three weeks, on top of an earlier estimate of more than 5,000 killed since March.

The leader of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, was quoted on Sunday as saying Arab troops should be sent to Syria to stop the deadly violence - the first statements by an Arab leader calling for the deployment of troops inside Syria.

"The Syrian people reject any foreign intervention in its affairs, under any title, and would confront any attempt to infringe upon Syria's sovereignty and the integrity of its territories," the foreign ministry said.

"It would be regrettable for Arab blood to flow on Syria's territory to serve known [interests]," the ministry added, without elaborating.

The statement appealed to the Arab League to stop what it called "the mobilisation campaign in the media". It also urged the Cairo-based organisation to "help prevent the infiltration of terrorists" into Syrian territory.

The 22-member Arab bloc sent dozens of observers to Syria on December 26 to monitor the crackdown.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 18 people were killed in the country, most of them shot dead by troops or pro-government gunmen, though the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said 24 people were killed, 17 of them in the restive central province of Homs.

The state-run news agency, Sana, reported violence targeting security forces and civilians, saying a roadside bomb went off near a minibus in the northwestern province of Idlib, killing four and wounding five.