Arab League to continue its mission in Syria

Arab League to continue its mission in Syria

The first report by Arab League observers in Syria recommends the controversial mission to continue and says monitors were subjected to “harassment” by the government and the opposition, an Arab League source said yesterday. The report recommends “the mission continues its work” with more technological assistance and “calls on the opposition and the government to let the mission move freely,” the source told reporters.

A team of Arab League monitors has been in Syria since Dec. 26, trying to assess whether President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is complying with a peace accord aimed at ending its deadly crackdown on dissent. Critics say it has been completely outmaneuvered by the government and has failed to make any progress towards stemming the crackdown. They have called for the mission to pull out.
The report said the observers had been “subjected to harassment by the Syrian government and by the opposition.” Monitors said that military vehicles had been stationed in most cities they visited. The report said that some observers saw bodies on the street, and that the government and opposition had traded blame over who was behind the killings, the source said.

No concrete decision

The document also confirms the release of hundreds of prisoners but says the monitors could not identify whether they were political detainees, the source added.

Yesterday’s meeting, attended by Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Qatar and officials from Saudi Arabia and other states, was expected to examine what monitors have found since starting work on Dec. 26 and discuss ways for them to work more independently of Syrian authorities, League sources said. 

“We don’t expect today’s meeting will come up with something that would fully condemn one party, because this will mean an end to the relationship between the Arab League and this party,” a League source said. The meeting was also expected to 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 U.N. figures. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said Jan. 6 there had been no end to the killing in Syria and the monitors could not stay in the country to “waste time.”

Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

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