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Arabs Urge Syria to End Violence

Published: 09/01/2012 01:36:07 PM GMT
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CAIRO - The Arab League renewed their calls to end violence tha (more)

CAIRO - The Arab League renewed their calls to end violence that left thousands dead in Syria on Sunday, January 8, stopping short of asking the United Nations to bolster the Arab peace mission, a draft statement under discussion by the League said.

"The (Arab League) Secretary General will continue to coordinate with the Secretary General of the United Nations to enhance the technical abilities of the monitors' commission," said the draft statement obtained by Reuters.

Sunday's meeting was attended by Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Qatar and officials from Saudi Arabia and other states.

Discussing the initial report submitted by Arab monitors, league sources said that the report will say violence by Syrian security forces against anti-government protesters continues and the military has failed to withdraw from cities, Al-Jazeera satellite channel reported.

It would also acknowledge the Syrian government's release of 3,484 detainees and make "a request to the Syrian regime for full cooperation with the monitors," a League source said.

League officials said the ministers were likely to reaffirm support for the monitors, resisting calls to end what Syrian pro-democracy campaigners say is a toothless mission that buys more time for Assad to suppress opponents.

The meeting will also discuss whether to ask the United Nations to help the mission, which has failed to end the 10-month crackdown on unrest in which thousands of people have been killed, according to UN figures.

The Arab League monitors' mission, which started last December 26, is the first international intervention on the ground in Syria since the revolt broke out and the government cracked down on the protests, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.

It came as part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on November 2 that calls for the withdrawal of security forces from towns and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.  

The Arab plan also called for Assad's government to permit peaceful protests, start dialogue with political opponents and allow foreign media to travel freely to the country. Syria agreed, but the pledge remains unfulfilled.

No Expectations

As the Arab leaders met in Cairo, about 50 of Syrian protesters gathered outside the Cairo hotel calling for toppling Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

"The people want the president dead" and "Down, down with Bashar," protesters sang.

Some waved caricatures of Assad that likened him to the vampire Dracula, sucking the lifeblood from the Syrian people.

Yet, they held no expectations from the Arab League meeting.

"The Syrian people are not hoping for anything from this meeting," said opposition activist Mohamed Ma'moun el-Hamsy.

"This meeting deals with a dead protocol that the Syrian regime has not and will not implement one word of."

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

Qatar has proposed inviting UN technicians and human rights experts to bolster the monitoring effort.

A League source said it might ask that UN staff helping the mission be Arabs.

Yet, recalling the monitors remained a far option for the Arab states.

Performing such action would send a signal that Arab efforts to find a solution have failed and would be taken as a green light for foreign military intervention, which many Arab governments fiercely oppose.

The Assad regime's crackdown on dissent has hit Homs particularly hard and activists say a great number of defecting soldiers have set up camp there to protect protesters.

The United Nations says 5,000 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown on protests. Syrian authorities blame armed groups for the violence, saying they have killed 2,000 soldiers and police.

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