(MENAFN - Arab News) BRUSSELS/DAMASCUS/CAIRO: NATO is urging the United Nations to enforce the peace plan for Syria endorsed by an international conference in Geneva.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said yesterday that the conflict in the Arab state was risking the stability of the entire region.
On Saturday, the conference endorsed a UN-brokered peace plan that calls for the creation of a transitional government in Damascus.
The Syrian opposition has already dismissed the plan because it did not call for President Bashar Assad to give up power.
The head of the Arab League called yesterday for the fragmented Syrian opposition to unite and said the UN-brokered plan for a transitional government in Syria fell short of expectations.
Rasmussen reiterated that NATO would not intervene militarily in Syria's conflict "because we believe a political solution is an adequate solution."
The Assad regime's crackdown on an increasingly armed popular uprising has left thousands dead in Syria over the past 16 months.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday more than 16,500 people have been killed in violence since an uprising against Assad broke out in March last year.
The 16,507 dead comprise 11,486 civilians, 4,151 government troops and 870 army defectors, the Britain-based watchdog told AFP.
However, a defiant Assad, issued three new "counter-terrorism" laws yesterday, the official SANA news agency said, 16 months into a deadly crackdown on an uprising against his rule.
The first law stipulates that a state employee convicted of "any act of terrorism - whether he is directly engaged, an accessory to the crime, or providing material or moral support to terrorist groups in any way - will be fired," SANA said.
The second law provides for jail terms of 10 to 20 years with hard labor for any act of violence or kidnap for ransom, the news agency said. It gave no details of the third law.
SANA said that during a debate on Thursday, members of Parliament said the laws were "needed at this stage, given the negative impact of terrorism on the security of the country and its citizens."
Last month, Assad told government ministers that the country was in a "state of war" and ordered them to crush the uprising that broke out in March last year.
Syrian authorities refer to both rebel fighters and unarmed activists as "terrorists."
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby addressed nearly 250 members of the Syrian opposition at a meeting in Cairo in an effort to coax the disparate groups to pull together. The gathering marked the first time the Arab League had hosted a gathering of the Syrian opposition.
"There is an opportunity before the conference of Syrian opposition today that must be seized, and I say and repeat that this opportunity must not be wasted under any circumstance," Elaraby said. "The sacrifices of the Syrian people are bigger than us and more valuable than any narrow differences or factional disputes,"
He also said that UN special envoy Kofi Annan's new plan to form a transitional government in Syria to end the country's crisis fell short of Arab expectations.
The plan, which was accepted by an international conference in Geneva on Saturday, left the door open - at Russia's insistence - to Assad being a part of the interim administration.
Elaraby, who has held private meetings with Syrian opposition figures at the League's headquarters in the past, said the agreement did not meet Arab expectations because it did not specify a time frame for a "clear transition" as the Arab League had called for.
Syrian opposition groups have roundly rejected the UN-brokered plan, calling it ambiguous and a waste of time and vowing not to negotiate with Assad or members of his "murderous" regime.
The US backed away from insisting that the plan should explicitly call for Assad to have no role in a new Syrian government, hoping the concession would encourage Russia to put greater pressure on its longtime ally to end the violent crackdown on protesters and rebels.