Middle East

Arab League will consider sending troops to Syria: Moussa

Former Arab League chief Amr Moussa attends a conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The Arab League will look into sending troops to Syria as proposed by Qatar's emir, Amr Moussa, the bloc's former secretary-general, said on Sunday, while former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri backed the suggestion on Twitter.

“The Arab League council will meet very soon to study the issue of replacing the monitoring mission with an Arab military force to separate between the army and civilians,” Moussa told The Daily Star on the sidelines of an ESCWA conference on democracy in the Arab world. He could not confirm when such a meeting might take place.

“We should not rule out any proposal from the head of an Arab state. Let the Arab League study the initiative quickly because the situation in Syria cannot endure a slow pace,” Moussa told The Daily Star when asked about the emir's proposal.

In an interview to be aired on U.S. television, Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said he favors sending Arab troops to Syria to stop a bloody crackdown on 10 months of democracy protests.

Sheikh Hamad is the first Arab leader to publicly call for Arab troops to be deployed in Syria, where the U.N. estimates more than 5,000 people have been killed in the crackdown since mid-March last year.

The comments by the emir, whose wealthy nation once enjoyed cordial ties with Damascus, come with the Arab League set to review the work of its Syria monitoring mission later this month, amid increasing concern about its failure to end the violence.

In the preview of the interview on the website, the emir did not spell out how any Arab military intervention might work.

According to a U.N. official, 400 people have been killed since the beginning of the Arab League mission to the crisis-hit country on December 26.

Speaking to reporters at the "Reform and Transitions to Democracy" organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Moussa reiterated the widespread call for an end to violence in Syria.

"We are all against the use of force against citizens. Bloodshed does not bode well," he said, describing the situation in Syria as "dangerous."

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri backed Sheikh Hamad’s suggestions.

“I am all for it,” Hariri tweeted during an overnight live Twitter session Saturday when asked to comment about the Qatari suggestion.

Meanwhile, an Arab League source told Reuters Sunday the League has not received any official request or suggestion to send Arab troops to Syria.

"There is no official suggestion to send Arab troops to Syria at the current time ... There has been no Arab or a non-Arab agreement on a military intervention in Syria for the time being," an Arab representative to the Cairo-based League said. - With AFP, Reuters





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