Arab League chief urges stability in Syria during Assad meet
Amid continued anti-Assad protects, Nabil al-Arabi assured the Syrian president that the Arab League would never take sides against Syria.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called for stability in Syria and rejected any form of foreign intervention at a meeting in Damascus on Saturday with Syrian president Bashar Assad.
Al-Arabi also said the Arab League stood ready "to help Syria overcome the crisis" and assured his host that his organization would never take sides against Syria.
Further details of the meeting were not available, though the state-run news agency SANA reported that Assad and al-Arabi had agreed on a number of concrete steps to accelerate the reform process in the country.
Assad, in turn, insisted on the importance of not following the "misleading media campaigns targeting Syria," SANA reported.
In his visit, which took place three days later than originally planned, al-Arabi was thought to have brought with him a 13-point document outlining Arab proposals to end the crisis.
They were believed to include an immediate halt to the regime's violent crackdown on protesters and holding free elections in 2014 - after Assad's term ends, reports said.
Earlier, a Syrian source in Lebanon told the German Press Agency dpa that while Syrians would accepted the envoy's visit, they "will not accept any condition imposed on them by anyone, even the Arab League."
"This is an internal matter and the Syrian government is the only one qualified to deal and stop the armed gangs from killing the Syrian people," the source said.
Protests calling for political reforms began in mid-March and developed into calls for the ouster of al-Assad.
The United Nations has estimated that more than 2,200 civilians have been killed in the government's violent crackdown.
As talks between al-Assad and the Arab league envoy took place, Syrian security forces continued their brutal crackdown on protesters in the province of Daraa and Homs.
At least 12 people were reportedly killed in northwestern and central Syria on Saturday alone.
"Five civilians were killed during a military and security operation to track down wanted people in the Al-Basateen neighborhood of Homs," in central Syria, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, a 45-year-old man was killed when security forces manning a checkpoint opened fire, said the Observatory.
Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory told dpa by phone: "Troops and security forces raided the village of Hit bordering Lebanon, arresting nine and damaging houses."
"The operation in Hit was aimed at looking for army defectors," Abdel Rahman said.
In a related development, the defected "Syrian Free Army" vowed on Saturday to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the same manner the Transitional National Council ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.
The group's spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Riad al-Assaad, told Al-Arabiya television that "Assad will have the same fate as Gadhafi."
The defected soldier called on the Syrian opposition to "unite" and urged the Syrian people to "keep protesting against the regime in a peaceful way."
Several alleged Syrian army defectors have issued statements and videos claiming to have founded a rebel army that will protect protesters.
Meanwhile, in Vienna, Syrian expatriate organizations from 15 European countries declared themselves in opposition to Assad and formed a joint movement.
The new Union of Syrians Abroad called for the "toppling of the Syrian regime and for the creation of a democratic multi-party state" while stressing the principle of non-violence and its opposition to foreign military intervention.