International

Arab Ministers Call Syria To Enact U.N.-Backed Peace Plan

The peace plan backed by the United Nations got the support of Arab foreign ministers today.

The leaders, who were in Baghdad for an Arab League summit, endorsed the plan which calls for a cease fire, the release of political prisoners and dialogue with the opposition. The ministers said Syria should enact the plan.

Reuters reports:

"Arab states backed away from their initial proposal demanding that Assad step down after Russia and China vetoed U.N. draft resolutions condemning him.

"'Syria's accepting the plan is a very important step,' Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters in Baghdad. 'This is the last chance for Syria and it must be implemented on the ground.'

"The Annan proposal is the latest attempt to broker an end to more than a year of violence in Syria after Assad sent troops into cities to try to crush rebels seeking to end his 12-year rule."

In a separate story, Reuters also reports that despite the agreement by President Bashar Assad, the violence continued. Syrian forces shelled towns across the country.

Also, the BBC reports, the opposition groups, which are negotiating under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council are skeptical of the plan. Syria had a agreed to a similar plan before, but the violence continued.

The BBC adds:

"The Syrian opposition groups who have been meeting in Istanbul this week are unanimous in their belief that President Assad is just playing for time. So they are convinced they will never have to confront the dilemma over whether to sit down and negotiate with him.

"At Russia's request the Annan plan makes no mention of any requirement for President Assad to leave office.

"But almost all the opposition groups say that requirement is non-negotiable; all they would be willing to talk about is how he leaves office, and what kind of system follows his departure."

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