* Damascus rejects foreign interference
* Calls for dialogue and end to violence
DAMASCUS, March 10 (Reuters) - Syria said on Thursday it was against foreign intervention in Libyan affairs as Western states debated how they should respond to a popular uprising against Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Damascus has remained generally silent on the protests that have swept the Arab world this year and which toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
“Syria affirms its rejection of all forms of foreign interference in Libyan affairs, since that would be a violation of Libya’s sovereignty, its independence and the unity of its land,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
In a possible criticism of Gaddafi’s violent response to the popular uprising, the statement also said Syria “called on the necessity to preserve the life of civilians” and to “resort to wisdom and dialogue to answer the desires of these people”.
Libya’s rebel leadership has urged the international community to impose a no-fly zone that would ground Gaddafi’s warplanes, preventing their use to attack civilians or rebels.
The Pentagon has said it was preparing a “full range” of military options for Libya, including a no-fly zone, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made it clear imposing such an action was a matter for the U.N. Security Council as opposed to a U.S.-led initiative.
The Security Council is divided on the idea and NATO ministers were due to hold discussions later on Thursday.
Uprisings like those seen in Tunisia and Egypt have not emerged in Syria, where security forces keep tight control. Authorities have intensified a long-running campaign of arrests of dissidents and opposition figures.
Facebook pages calling for protests in recent weeks have failed to mobilise demonstrations.
President Bashar al-Assad said there was no chance the political upheaval shaking the Arab world would spread to Syria, which has been controlled by his Baath Party for the last five decades.
Assad said that Syria’s ruling hierarchy was “very closely linked to the beliefs of the people” and that there was no mass discontent against the state.