01/25/2012 02:46 pm ET Updated Mar 26, 2012

Mohamed ElBaradei Possibly New Arab League Envoy To Syria

CAIRO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The Arab League has approached Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear agency, as a possible candidate for the job of special envoy to Syria to follow up an Arab initiative to ease President Bashar al-Assad out of power.

"The Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby has made a number of contacts with prominent Arab figures... and among these figures is Dr. ElBaradei," Egypt's state MENA news agency quoted Ahmed Ben Helli, a senior official of the 22-member body, as saying.

The U.N. Security Council could vote as early as next week on a draft resolution endorsing the Arab League's call for Assad to hand powers to his deputy and set up a unity government to prepare for early parliamentary and presidential elections.

The plan also requires the Arab League to dispatch an envoy to Damascus to push for implementation.

It remains unclear whether Russia - which together with China vetoed a European-drafted resolution in October that condemned Syria and threatened it with sanctions over its 10-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators - is prepared to wield its veto powers once again.

ElBaradei, who helped to galvanise the opposition when he returned to Egypt in 2010, withdrew this month from Egypt's presidential election complaining that not enough had changed since Hosni Mubarak's ousting at the height of the Arab Spring a year ago. (Writing by Lin Noueihed)