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‘Failing’ Syria Mission Under Fire

Published: 09/01/2012 01:36:07 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Syrian opposition activists have opened fire at the Arab League for failing to stop the daily bloodshed in the pivotal country, demanding the withdrawal of observers seen as incompetent and biased.“All we want is p (more)

CAIRO - Syrian opposition activists have opened fire at the Arab League for failing to stop the daily bloodshed in the pivotal country, demanding the withdrawal of observers seen as incompetent and biased.

“All we want is protection of civilians,” Adib Shishakly, a member of the Syrian National Council opposition group, told The Washington Post.

“But do I think the protesters are waiting for such a meeting to complete the revolution? No.”

Arab ministers met on Sunday in Cairo to review a report by Arab observers on Syria's abidance by an Arab plan to end bloodshed.

Following their meeting, the ministers decided “to give Arab League observers the necessary time to continue their mission according to the protocol," which states that the mission is for the duration of one month, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

They also agreed to increase the number of observers and said they may seek "technical assistance from the United Nations."

The ministers also called anew on Syria "to fully and immediately implement its commitments" under the Arab plan, calling on all parties "to immediately stop all forms of violence."

Yet, they stopped short of asking for UN help, saying that Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi would "continue coordinating with the United Nations Secretary General to reinforce the Arab League mission's technical aspects."

"We hope there will be decisive steps by the Syrian government to stop the bloodshed," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told reporters after the meeting.

He said a report by the observers discussed at the meeting showed that "killing has been reduced. But even one killing (is too much)."

The Arab League monitors' mission, which started on December 26, is the first international intervention on the ground in Syria since anti-regime protests, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world, started.

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 plan also calls for Bashar Al-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.

The United Nations says about 6,000 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.

Failing Mission

Activists accuse the pan-Arab body of giving the Assad regime more time to quash the Syrian revolution.

“I want them to admit that they have failed to stop the massacres and refer the issue to the UN,” activist Osama al-Malouhi told The Washington Post.

Protesting outside the Cairo hotel where the Arab ministers met, activists said that 300 civilians have been killed since monitors began their work almost two weeks ago.

They also demanded that the Arab League end its mission, with some saying the monitors were incompetent and biased.

Other protesters called on the Arab League to refer the case to the United Nations to allow foreign intervention.

Aisha Atta, a Syrian activist and academic, said she favors military intervention, expressing frustration with the monitors, who she said were not objective.

“The truth is that the oppression is clear now, because of the protests, but the reality is that we have been oppressed for 40 years,” Atta said.

Facing protesters' anger, the Arab League has admitted to "mistakes" but defended the mission, saying it had secured the release of prisoners and withdrawal of tanks from cities.

It said rather than pulling out, it planned to send more observers to reach 300 "within the next few days" from around 163 now deployed in Syria.

"No plan to withdraw the observers is on the agenda of the Arab ministerial committee meeting on Syria," the bloc's deputy secretary general, Adnan Issa, told AFP on Saturday."We are not talking about a pullout but reinforcing the mission."

Reproduced with permission from