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Syria slams Arab League's "conspiratorial plot"

Pro-Syrian regime protester holds a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad
A pro-Syrian regime protester holds a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad during a demonstration to show support for their president, in Damascus, Syria, Jan. 20, 2012. AP

(CBS) DAMASCUS - Syria lashed out at the Arab League on Monday over the group's new proposed plan to end 10 months of violent unrest in the country, which calls for President Bashar Assad to transfer power to his deputy and a national unity government within two months. Syria's government also remained silent on whether it will agree to extend a month-long monitoring mission by Arab League observers.

"Syria rejects the decisions taken by the ministerial committee of the Arab League, which are outside an Arab working plan and the signed protocol, and considers them a violation of its national sovereignty, a flagrant interference in internal affairs and a brazen infringement of Arab League charters," an official source said, according to the state-controlled media.

"Syria confirms its condemnation to these resolutions which came in the framework of the conspiratorial plot targeted against," the statement said.

Arab League foreign ministers meeting Sunday in Cairo asked the United Nations to support the new plan, aimed at resolving the crisis in Syria by forming a unity government within two weeks, which can then lead the country through a transitional period culminating with elections and a new constitution written.

But as CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, calls for political dialogue between Assad's government and opposition leaders are being drowned out by a growing chorus of religious hatred, and it may already be too late. (Watch full report at left)

The Syrian official said the ministerial council should instead, "bear responsibility in stopping the funding and arming of the terrorist groups which are killing the innocent Syrian people and attacking the government buildings and the infrastructure of the state."

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The official said the Arab League initiative would not prevent the country from, "advancing its political reforms and bringing security and stability to its people who have shown, during this crisis, their support for national unity as they have rallied around President Assad."

The Syrian National Council, the country's largest opposition group, has been lobbying in Cairo for U.N. intervention, and SNC chief Burhan Ghaliun welcomed the League's statement of intention to seek U.N. support.

The statement given to Syria's state-run media offered no indication as to whether Damascus will agree to extend the widely-criticized Arab mission to oversee a peace plan aimed at ending the unrest, which the U.N. says has claimed more than 5,000 lives - primarily members of the opposition. Syria claims more than 2,000 soldiers and security personnel have been killed since March by armed gangs.

Damascus, keen to avoid new sanctions or harsher condemnation from the U.N., has attempted to show compliance with the Arab peace plan in recent weeks. The plan demanded a halt to killings, a military pullout from the streets, the release of political prisoners, access for the monitors and the media, and a political dialogue with opposition groups.

This month the Syrian authorities have freed hundreds of detainees, announced an amnesty, struck a ceasefire deal with armed rebels in one town, allowed the 165-person mission into some trouble spots and admitted some foreign journalists. But that access has come only with direct oversight from regime security personnel, and the violence has not completely stopped.

Assad also promised political reforms, while vowing iron-fisted treatment of the "terrorists" trying to topple him.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia, regional rivals of Syria and its ally Iran, are impatient for decisive action against Assad and Qatar has suggested sending Arab troops to Syria.

Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal told the foreign ministers his country will withdraw its observers from Syria because the mission has failed to end bloodshed and will call on the international community to apply "all possible pressure" on Damascus to end the violence.

Others, including the Christian minority inside Syria which fears a possible Islamic-hardline uprising if Assad is toppled, worry that weakening the long-time strongman's position could plunge Syria into a deeper conflict - and probably a civil war - that would destabilize the entire region.

On Saturday, the Syrian National Council (SNC) formally asked the Arab League to refer the Syrian crisis to the United Nations Security Council.

But the Security Council is also split on how to address the crisis, with Western powers demanding tougher sanctions and a weapons embargo but Assad's staunch ally and investor Russia preferring to leave the Arabs to negotiate a peaceful outcome.

Edited by's Tucker Reals in London.

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