Tunisia won't rule out troops in Syria

Tunisia has cautiously added its voice to calls from Qatar for direct intervention to stop the bloody crackdowns on protesters in Syria.

Tunisia has cautiously added its voice to calls from Qatar for direct intervention to stop the bloody crackdowns on protesters in Syria.

The foreign minister of Tunisia said in an interview to APTN on Sunday that he would not rule out troops being sent into the country.

"We hope that the Syrians will sit on the table and sort out their problems with the head of the Arab colleagues within the umbrella of the Arab League," Rafik Abdessalem said in Beirut.

Abdessalem’s comments come in the wake of the leader of Qatar reiterating his calls on Saturday that Arab troops should be sent into Syria.

Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani made those calls on CBS's 60 Minutes in an interview to be aired Sunday.

"Everything is possible," he said.

Once a close ally to the regime of Bashar Assad, Qatar’s leader has become a harsh critic of the regime’s violent oppression of protesters. The Gulf state withdrew its ambassador to Syria in the summer.

Abdessalem’s remarks are pertinent considering that Tunisia was the first Arab country to oust a dictator through a peaceful revolution a year ago – triggering what would be called the Arab Spring and causing the downfall of regimes in Egypt and Libya.

Tunisians went to the polls in October, electing a constituent assembly.

"My message [to the Syrian regime] is to hear and to listen to the will of the people," said Abdessalem, who is in Beirut to participate in a UN conference on the future of the Arab region.

At the same conference, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded Sunday that Syria's president stop killing his own people, indicating the rule of family dynasties is over in the Middle East.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 other people died in Syria while another organization, the Local Coordination Committees activist network, said 27 people were killed Sunday. The numbers could not be confirmed.

The UN estimates more than 5,000 people have died since the civil uprising last March, with about 20,000 people imprisoned.