Mon, Jan 02, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Observers in Syria in conflict about government snipers

AFP, NICOSIA

Arab League officials monitoring violence in Syria appear to be in conflict over whether government snipers are perched on rooftops in the southern flashpoint city of Daraa.

In a video released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a man wearing an orange vest with the Arab League logo said in Daraa: “There are snipers; we have seen them with our own eyes.”

“We ask the authorities to remove them immediately; if they don’t remove them within 24 hours there will be other measures,” the unnamed speaker in the video, which was dated Friday, told a crowd of people.

“Otherwise our coming here is for nothing,” he added.

However, veteran Sudanese military intelligence officer General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, who is heading the observer mission, said that the official seen in the video was making a hypothetical remark.

“This man said that if he saw — by his own eyes — those snipers he will report immediately,” Dabi told the BBC’s Newshour program. “But he didn’t see [snipers].”

A first team of 50 observers arrived on Monday as part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on Nov. 2, which calls for the withdrawal of the military from towns and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.

The Arab League mission has been the focus of controversy, with some Syrian opposition members unhappy with the choice of Dabi to head it.

For some the general is a controversial figure because he served under Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes allegedly committed in the Darfur region.

The general ruffled opposition feathers by saying Syrian authorities were so far cooperating with the mission and by describing his visit to the flashpoint city of Homs as “good.”

Rights activists have urged the Arab monitors to do more to protect civilians from regime forces.

The Britain-based Observatory reported that Syrian forces on Friday used “nail bombs” to disperse anti-regime rallies and fired live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades at tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters.

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