Arab League to send more inspectors to monitor events in Syria

As the first month of its inspection comes to an end, the league is wary of threatening President Assad by turning to UN

Arab League monitors in Syria are to be reinforced in the coming days, after ministers were told on Sundaythat the controversial mission needed more time and resources to observe escalating violence across the country.

Qatar’s prime minister, Hamed bin Jassem, who was chairing a meeting in Cairo to review progress, had warned earlier that the observers would simply be “wasting time” if their work was ineffective. But there was no agreement that the mission should seek UN “technical assistance” to improve its faltering performance.

Any decision to withdraw the mission would require a full session of the league committee handling the Syrian crisis, which according to UN figures has seen the deaths of more than 5,000 people since it erupted in March. The league urged the Assad regime to improve co-operation, end violence and protect civilians.

At the Cairo meeting, Mohammed al-Dabi, the Sudanese general leading the monitors, briefed the ministers behind closed doors. Dabi had said earlier that work was only just starting and that they needed more time. The initial one-month deployment is due to end on 19 January, when he is to issue a full report.

** Arab League mission in Syria ‘has only just started’

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  • afp

    Posted: 08 January 2012 1608 hrs

    NICOSIA: Heavy clashes broke out before dawn on Sunday between the Syrian army and deserters, leaving 11 of its soldiers dead, human rights activists said.

    Another 20 soldiers were wounded in the fighting in Daraa province, south of the capital, while nine soldiers defected to join the rebel troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    In addition to the deadly clashes in the village of Basr al-Harir, the Britain-based watchdog also reported heavy machinegun exchanges between the army and deserters in the Daraa town of Dael. There was no immediate word on any casualties.

    Cradle of the protests against President Bashar al-Assad that erupted in March, Daraa has been one of the provinces hardest hit by the deadly crackdown unleashed by his regime.

    The latest deaths came as Arab League foreign ministers prepared to meet in Cairo to review the record of a widely criticised observer mission to Syria, in the face of growing calls for the bloc to cede to the United Nations the lead role in trying to end the bloodshed.

    – AFP/ck

  • Beirut/dpa – Syria on Saturday vowed an ‘iron fist’ response to a bombing in the capital Damascus that killed 26 people the day before.

    ‘We will hit back with an iron fist at anyone who tries to tamper with the security of the country or its citizens,’ said Interior Minister Ibrahim al-Shaar on state television.

    A bomber blew up himself Friday in the Maidan district of central Damascus, also wounding more than 60, the government said.

    On Saturday, thousands of mourners attended the funerals of the victims.

    ‘May God protect Syria and its sovereignty,’ chanted the mourners, as they walked in a funeral procession in central Damascus, said witnesses.

    State television showed the coffins of the victims being carried across the streets of Damascus amid tight security, and the wailing of grieving women and men echoed across the district where the blast took place.

    The opposition has accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of ‘staging’ the bombing to win international sympathy.

    ‘The area was closed shortly before the blast took place, and people in the area were warned to stay indoors,’ a Syrian activist based in Lebanon told dpa.

    ‘Shortly after the blast, security forces were seen dropping personal belongings near the blown-up bus,’ he said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

    Condemning the bombing, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said Saturday in Cairo that he was extremely worried about the spiralling violence in Syria.

    On Sunday, al-Arabi is to attend a meeting in Cairo of an Arab League committee to review the performance of an observer mission dispatched to Syria to end 10 months of bloodshed.

    But Bassima Kadamani, the spokeswoman of the opposition Syrian National Council, was Saturday quoted by Arab media as saying: ‘The Arab League should admit that its observer mission has failed and should hand over the task to the United Nations.’

    A senior official in the regional bloc ruled out the possibility of recalling the observers any time soon.

    ‘No Arab country has talked about the necessity of withdrawing the observers,’ the organization’s assistant chief Adnan Eissa told reporters in Cairo.

    Eissa said 153 Arab observers were already in Syria and would be joined by 10 more Jordanians later on Saturday.

    Qatar’s Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim, who heads the Arab League committee on Syria, said Damascus was not implementing a deal aimed at stopping the violence.

    ‘With deep regrets, the news is not good,’ bin Jassim told broadcaster Al Jazeera.

    Meanwhile, Syrian security forces on Saturday killed nine people in the restive province of Homs, according to the opposition.

    ‘The regime forces fired randomly at protesters in the rebellious neighbourhoods of Baba Amr and Khalidiyeh (in Homs),’ opposition activist Omar Homsi told dpa.

    More than 5,000 people have been killed in the government’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters since mid-Mach, according to the United Nations.

  • January 7

    Al Jazeera – A senior military officer in the Syrian city of Hama has defected along with up to 50 of his soldiers, in protest against the government’s ten-month crackdown on peaceful demonstrations that has claimed thousands of lives across the country.

    Colonel Afeef Mahmoud Suleiman, who is from the air force logistics division, announced his defection live on Al Jazeera’s Arabic news channel on Saturday.

    Suleiman said he and his men had taken on a new mission to keep protesters in Hama safe during demonstrations.


    [Comment: If truly a cohesive unit this could possibly mark the beginning of a phase shift. Wait to see if it becomes a trend. ~ JPD]

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • Gulf states have followed Saudi Arabia’s lead in pulling their observers out of Syria, while urging the UN Security Council to pile pressure on Damascus to end its crackdown on dissent.

    The Telegraph, January 24

    The six GCC countries announced in a joint statement that their decision came after “closely following developments in Syria and after they confirmed that the bloodshed and killings there continue (and after) the Syrian regime did not comply with implementing the Arab League decisions.”

    They also called on “members of the UN Security Council … to take all needed measures at the Security Council to press Syria to implement the Arab League decisions and the Arab initiative on Syria.”

    The Arab League, meanwhile, said it has requested a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon so it can present its proposals on resolving the Syria crisis and demand support from the UN Security Council.


    The GCC “countries are moving towards pulling all their monitors” out of Syria, the newspaper reported, because they don’t want observers to remain as “false witnesses to the crimes committed against civilians by the Syrian regime.”

    Previously: Syria unrest: Saudis pull out of Arab League mission

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