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Syrian rebel leader wants Libyan-style Arab initiative
DUBAI (Reuters) - Syria's main opposition bloc wants Arab states to work together to effect an international intervention in Syria similar to the joint initiative in Libya, Syrian National Council (SNC) head Abdulbaset Sieda said in an interview published on Wednesday.
"We call on the Arabs to undertake a clear and serious initiative, like the position they took towards the Libyan revolution," he said after talks in Doha with Qatari officials.
The Arab League asked the U.N. Security Council for a no-fly zone last year to protect civilians in Libya, paving the way for NATO and Arab allies to help rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.
Sieda also told pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper, that the SNC objected to Iran's participation in efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, saying Tehran was part of the problem.
The West has shown little appetite for repeating any Libya-style action in Syria, and Russia and China, both veto-wielding powers on the U.N. Security Council, oppose such intervention.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been battling an uprising which began as peaceful street protests last March and escalated into a civil war in which over 27,000 people have died. Daily death tolls are about 200 and last month was the bloodiest yet.
Sieda, speaking after talks with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, who heads an Arab League committee on Syria, said everything should be done to stop the killings in Syria.
"There must be a serious initiative to move with the Europeans for the purpose of removing complete legitimacy from the regime first and not to let the killing of Syrians to continue in this manner. Thus, there must be pressure," he said.
"We demand everything that will stop the killing of Syrians, there is Chapter Seven at the Security Council, which puts all options on the table, including international intervention to stop the killing," he said, referring the option of using military force against Assad's forces.
Sieda also dismissed the chances that Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi's initiative for a "contact group" to try to resolve the Syrian crisis would succeed, saying he opposed Iran's participation in the efforts.
"We believe that Iran is part of the problem," Sieda said.
"Iran is providing the regime with arms, money and plans, and even the commander of the Revolutionary Guards admitted that there are men from the Revolutionary Guards inside Syria."
Qatar's prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, told Kuwait's al-Rai newspaper that Iran should be part of the solution. He also said he did not know whether Iranian Revolutionary Guards were in Syria.
"But what I expect and hope for is that Iran be part of the solution in Syria and we have strong and honest relations with Iran and we agree on some things and disagree on others," he said, and reiterated his call that Assad step down.
"I believe that with the blood that had been spilled, there is nothing left for President Bashar except to take a courageous decision, which is an orderly handover of power, provided that there is no revenge from one party to another," he said.
Former international mediator Kofi Annan had wanted Iran to be involved in efforts to find a solution to the Syrian crisis. He resigned in August complaining about a diplomatic deadlock at the U.N. Security Council.
Sieda said the first sign of failure were evident from Saudi Arabia's boycotting of the meeting of Mursi's contact group. Saudi Arabia stayed away from the meeting held in Cairo on Monday, a setback for the forum, which includes Turkey and Iran.
"We have informed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi's aides of our reservations over the Iranian participation," he said.
The SNC has been torn by a power struggle between Islamists, secular politicians, exiled leaders and activists in Syria, undermining its claim to be an alternative to Assad.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall in Kuwait; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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