March 29, 2012 in Nation/World

Arab League may ease Syria stance

Group won’t seek Assad ouster
Hannah Allam McClatchy
A house divided

 Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the summit’s main organizer, reaffirmed Arab nations oppose foreign intervention in Syria and still prefer to resolve the crisis within “the Arab house.”

 That house is divided, though, with Sunni Muslim powers such as Persian Gulf countries pushing for arms shipments to the insurgents who are struggling to bring down Assad’s regime.

BAGHDAD – With its own initiatives having failed, the Arab League is expected today to back a U.N.-led peace plan during a meeting in Iraq, where the crisis in Syria is expected to be the dominant topic.

Officials said Wednesday that whatever the Arab League leaders did, they wouldn’t call for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ouster or issue any other ultimatums for resolving the year-old conflict that’s killed thousands of Syrians, the vast majority of them civilians.

Officials denied they were softening their stance on Syria, but it’s apparent that the Arab League is backing off its tough talk from January, when the group called on Assad to hand over authority to a deputy, thereby launching a phased transition. At the time, the league had hoped for a unity government to form within two months, to be followed by elections.

Some Arab officials have acknowledged privately that the earlier stance was adopted too hastily, when it appeared the regime was poised for collapse. Assad’s forces have since routed rebels in flash-point cities, while internal divisions threaten to unravel an opposition coalition that many had hoped would become an interim authority.

“The most important thing is stopping the violence, from all sides,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. “And forming a transitional government from all the parties, and handing power to people whom both the opposition and authorities in Syria believe can run a dialogue.”

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