01/16/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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Assad offers amnesty, Arab League discusses military intervention

The act of clemency would apply to crimes committed during the ten months of unrest, and to deserters. Qatar sheikh calls for Arab troops deployment to the country to the stop the killing. He had taken the initiative against Gaddafi in Libya.
Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has granted a general amnesty for all crimes committed during the 10-month uprising, state-run media report. The initiative would apply to army deserters who turn themselves in before the end of January, peaceful protesters and those who hand in unlicensed weapons.

Thousands of people have been detained in the past year. However, it is impossible to verify independently the actual numbers provided by the opposition because foreign journalists are banned, with few exceptions, from the country.

The cycle of violence by both sides (security forces and armed deserters) continues despite the presence of 160 Arab League observers to monitor the situation and write a report.

This is not Assad’s first amnesty for opponents in recent months. However, for analysts, the initiative is not likely to change the socio-political situation, even if it was discussed with Arab League observers, the ad-Dunia TV network reported.

In past offers of clemency, there were few takers and the authorities do not appear to have honoured their promise.

In a rare public speech last week, President Bashar al-Assad accused foreign powers of trying to destabilise Syria. In his address, he pledged to crush the “terrorists” with an “iron fist” (see “Assad: we will declare victory soon against the international conspiracy,” in AsiaNews, 1 January 2012).

The Arab League now appears to have taken the initiative. Its chief, Nabil al-Arabi, said yesterday that a ministerial meeting this week could discuss a Qatari proposal to send Arab troops to unrest-hit Syria. “All ideas will be open for discussion,” he told reporters when asked if next Saturday’s meeting would debate the proposal.

Even though Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said that “Some troops should go to stop the killing” in Syria, Jabr al-Shoufi, a member of the Syrian National Council, noted that the Syrian government will likely use force to stop Arab troops from entering the country.

For his part, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said that he was against the proposal of the Qatari leader, who led the Arab world in the Libya action, because it could set off an explosion that would “spread across the whole region”.
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