NEW: At least 41 people died Saturday
Arab League to consider peace plan on Wednesday
More than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria, the U.N. says
Diplomats are looking for ways to end the conflict
The Arab League is a step closer to asking the U.N. Security Council to consider a plan designed to forge peace in restive Syria, a senior Arab League official told CNN Saturday.
Five Arab League ministers meeting in Doha, Qatar, drafted a resolution calling for the end of violence and approving an observatory mission in Syria, engulfed by a brutal anti-government crackdown for nine months that has left 5,000 people dead.
The plan will be considered Wednesday by league foreign ministers. If they approve it, it could be sent to the U.N. Security Council. The official, who wanted to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak on the issue, said the resolution does not include any mention of military intervention.
This comes as 41 people were slain on Saturday by government security forces cracking down on anti-regime elements, an activist group said. Eight of the dead were members of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel force comprised of military defectors.
World powers have deplored the government’s activity, and they are looking for ways to rein in violence and urgently contain the threat of civil war, reflected from the emergence of the armed defector force.
The Arab League has devised and promoted a plan to send an observatory team to Syria weeks ago. It tried to get Syria’s approval to go along with it. But the regime has raised objections and called for caveats to the resolution, and the league says the Bashar al-Assad regime has procrastinated in dealing with the proposal.
The Syrian government’s repression of unrest has triggered criticism as well as from the Arab League, which expelled Syria last month and has been pushing to send monitors into Syria. Sanctions against Syria have been initiated by the United States, the European Union, Turkey and the league.
The passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution would require an approval by two permanent council members – Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, and China, both of whom have rejected tough action at the U.N. toward Syria.
Russia has taken a stab at resolving the issue at the United Nations this week.
Moscow introduced a draft resolution this week that, it says, “considerably strengthens” previous drafts “with regard to the interest in violence, with regard to the need to uphold human rights, with regard to expediting reforms.”
The resolution “strongly condemns” violence “coming from all parties, including disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities.” It also would “give a strong message to the Arab League that we encourage them to continue their efforts, and working together with the government of Syria, and to carry out its plans to deploy the monitoring mission in Syria,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Thursday at the United Nations.
Itar -Tass, the Russian state news agency, reported that Syria’s Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa was to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday to discuss ways to forge peace. But Interfax, a Russian news agency, later said Lavrov denied reports about the talks and quoted a Syrian official in Moscow as saying he knows nothing about the possible time of the visit.
Iraq has sent a delegation to Damascus with a peace proposal, Iraqi state media reported Saturday.
Activists say fighting has raged virtually every day and unrest also rippled across the country on Saturday.
Among the 41 deaths Saturday were three children and a woman. The group said military and security forces also stormed towns in Hama and Aleppo provinces.
The military defectors died in the Damascus province town of Zabadani, where civilians protesting the al-Assad regime have conducted a general strike, the LCC said. Security forces, including snipers, have been opening fire on houses and private vehicles in the town, said the LCC.
The two defectors were members of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel force of army defectors who are taking up arms against the government. The LCC identified one of the soldiers as Lt. Col. Alaa Yahya.
The Free Syrian Army struck government forces this week and killed 27 of them Thursday in a southern province, anti-government sources said.
Journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.