- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2012

BEIRUT — Syria rejected the Arab League’s wide-ranging new plan to end the country’s 10-month crisis, saying Monday that the league’s call for a national unity government in two months is a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty as violence raged.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in a suburb outside the capital, Damascus, to mourn for 11 residents who were either fatally shot by security forces or killed in clashes between army defectors and troops a day earlier, activists said.

An activist group said 23 people were killed in Syria on Monday.

The crowd in Douma - which one activist said was 60,000-strong - was under the protection of dozens of army defectors who are in control of the area after regime forces pulled out late Sunday, Douma resident Samer al-Omar said.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

In Syria’s north, opposition figure Radwan Rabih Hamadi was killed in an ambush in the rebellious Jabal al-Zawiya mountain region, activists said.

Mr. Hamadi, 46, was a prominent figure in the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

Mr. Assad blames the uprising that erupted in March on terrorists and armed gangs acting out a foreign conspiracy to destabilize the country.

His regime has retaliated with a brutal crackdown that the U.N. says has killed more than 5,400 people.

There is growing urgency, however, to find a resolution to a crisis that is growing increasingly violent as regime opponents and army defectors have started to fight back against government forces.

The Arab League has tried to stem the bloodshed by condemning the crackdown, imposing sanctions and sending a team of observers to the country.

On Sunday, the league called for a unity government within two months, which would then prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held under Arab and international supervision.

The proposal also provides for Mr. Assad to give his vice president full powers to cooperate with the proposed government to enable it to carry out its duties during a transitional period.

The state-run news agency, SANA, said Damascus considers the plan “flagrant interference in its internal affairs” and the latest turn in an international plot against Syria.

It was not immediately clear what steps, if any, Syria could take to counter the Arab League’s stance.

The European Union backed the Arab plan Monday, and it extended existing sanctions against Mr. Assad’s government by adding 22 more officials and eight companies to the blacklist.



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