Mon, Jan 09, 2012 - Page 1 News List

League to mull UN help with Syria

Reuters, CAIRO

Arab League monitors were to say yesterday that Syria was defying a plan to end its crackdown on peaceful protests, al-Jazeera reported, as Arab foreign ministers prepared to discuss the findings of the mission.

An initial report from the monitors was to say that violence by Syrian security forces against anti-government protesters had continued and the military had failed to withdraw from cities.

The Syrian government had only partially complied with its pledge to release political prisoners, with citizens complaining that some were still being detained in unknown locations, the pan-Arab satellite news channel said, citing leaked sections of the report.

The Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo were to discuss whether to ask the UN to help their mission, which has failed to end a 10-month crackdown on unrest in which thousands of people have died, according to UN figures.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said on Friday there had been no end to the killing and the monitors could not stay in the country to “waste time.”

The ministers were to examine what monitors have found since starting work on Dec. 26 and discuss ways for them to work more independently of Syrian authorities, a league source said.

However, league sources said they were likely to reaffirm support for the operation, resisting calls to end what Syrian pro-democracy campaigners say is a toothless mission that buys more time for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to suppress opponents.

Eleven Syrian soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in clashes with army defectors yesterday in the village of Basr al-Harir in the southern province of Deraa, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It did not report any casualties among the army defectors.

Qatar, which chairs the Arab League committee on Syria, has proposed inviting UN technicians and human rights experts to bolster the monitoring effort, league sources said. One said it might ask that UN staff helping the mission be Arabs.

Syria says it is providing the monitors with all they need and has urged them to show “objectivity and professionalism.”

Speaking on the eve of the meeting, the head of the monitoring operations room at the league’s headquarters in Cairo, Adnan al-Khudeir, said the withdrawal of the monitors was not on the agenda and they were continuing their work according to protocols agreed with the Syrian government.

Ten Jordanian monitors arrived in Damascus on Saturday, Khudeir said, bringing the number involved to 153.

Assad’s opponents say the government has systematically deceived the monitors, for instance by hiding prisoners in military facilities.

Syria bars most independent journalists from the country, making first-hand reporting impossible, but a BBC Arabic service reporter was allowed to accompany three monitors to a town on the outskirts of Damascus. The BBC said it had been able to film, unhindered by the security forces.

Protesters and residents told the observers, all Algerian diplomats, of harsh treatment at the hands of the security forces. The observers witnessed a demonstration in which the crowd demanded Assad’s execution, the BBC said.

In Damascus, crowds waving Syrian flags and pictures of Assad gathered on Saturday to bury 26 people whom the authorities said were killed by a suicide bomber.

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