Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejects call by Arab League to stand down
Syria's main ally in the region, Iran acknowledges the pressure on the Assad government
The Arab League has called upon Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step
aside in order to end the fighting that has swept across the country.
Assad has rejected the request, as the situation further deteriorates
Qatar's Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani remained firm at the end of the ministerial meeting in Doha. 'There is agreement on the need for the rapid resignation of President Bashar al-Assad,' he said.
"If the Arab nations who met in Doha were honest about wanting to stop the bloodshed they would have stopped supplying arms... they would stop their instigation and propaganda," Makdissi said. "All their statements are hypocritical."
Qatar's Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani remained firm at the end of the ministerial meeting in Doha. "There is agreement on the need for the rapid resignation of President Bashar al-Assad," he said.
The Arab League has also urged the rebel Free Syrian Army to form a transitional government of national unity.
"We call on the opposition and the Free Syrian Army to form a government of national unity," Sheikh Hamad said at the Arab League meeting.
Adding to the sense of urgency is the announcement made by the Syrian government that it possesses stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Officials say these weapons will only be used in the case of a foreign attack and will never use the weapons against its own citizens.
"No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria," spokesman Makdissi said.
"All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression."
Iran, Syria's main ally in the region is joining the chorus of nations putting pressure on the Assad government.
Ali Larijani told Iran's state-run Arabic language Al-Alam TV that presidential elections in Syria could be held while planning future parliamentary elections. Larijani said fighting in Damascus and elsewhere has blocked an attempt to organize voting and that Assad's government backs the idea.
Troops commanded by the brother of President Bashar al-Assad and backed by helicopter gunships have since driven rebel fighters out of a district of Damascus shortly after the insurgents launched a major assault on the capital.
Members of the Syrian army's Fourth Division under the command of Maher al-Assad executed several young men on the weekend during the operation to regain control of the northern Damascus district of Barzeh, a witness and activists said.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Arab League, civil war
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