Syria's foreign minister attacked the Arab League Sunday for suspending Damascus and accused the organization of being used as a "tool" by the West to take the Syrian crisis to the UN Security Council.
Walid al-Muallem spoke in Damascus shortly after the Arab League rejected Syria's proposed amendments to a peace plan to end the country's turmoil, saying the changes put forward by Damascus alter the plan's "essence."
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The Arab initiative, agreed to earlier this month, calls for the withdrawal of government tanks from the streets, the release of political prisoners, a halt to attacks on civilians and allowing observers in.
Al-Muallem said the proposed Arab League mission placed "impossible conditions" and gave excessive authority to the observers in a way that violated Syria's sovereignty. He denied Damascus had sought to restrict the observers' movement within the country but said Syria wanted to be informed of the groups' movements in order to offer security protection.
"The observers, if they come, will have freedom of movement," he said. "We have nothing to hide, they should see the killings, the massacres and the crimes being carried out against our people and security forces."
'Armed gangs seeking to destabilize Syria'
He slammed the "hasty" decisions taken by the Arab League in suspending Syria and rejecting the amendments it proposed, saying the organization doesn't want to believe that there are armed terrorist groups in Syria.
"It's the first time that the Arab League works so blatantly against the interests of one of its members," he said.
The government regime blames the country's unrest on armed gangs playing out a foreign agenda that seeks to destabilize Syria. The uprising that began in mid-March has been largely peaceful, but has grown increasingly militarized with army defectors fighting back and some protesters taking up arms. The UN estimates at least 3,500 people have been killed in the government crackdown.
The minister accused some Arab countries of complicity with the US in pressuring Syria, but added: "This cheek is used to this slapping."
Al-Muallem said Syria will send a reply to the Arab League secretary general asking for clarifications on why the proposed amendments were rejected.
He also denied reports that the Damascus headquarters of the ruling Baath Party was hit by rocket-propelled grenades Sunday, calling them "absolutely false."
But he later thanked a Syrian journalist for clarifying that the explosions heard in the area were the result of a sound bomb, indirectly acknowledging that some kind of attack had taken place.
He also dismissed talk of civil war in Syria, saying such talk was "wishful thinking" by the US and Turkish leaders.
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