Arab League calls urgent meeting on Syria monitors

Arab League calls urgent meeting on Syria monitors

BEIRUT - The Associated Press
Arab League calls urgent meeting on Syria monitors

An image grab taken from AFP TV shows Syrian security forces walking towards anti-regime protesters as they attempt to reach the main square in the flashpoint city of Homs on December 30, 2011. AFP Photo

The Arab League on Tuesday called for an emergency meeting to discuss whether to withdraw the group's monitors from Syria, where security forces are still killing protesters despite the observers' presence, an Arab official said.

The meeting will take place Saturday in Cairo, where the Arab League is based.

The Arab League's deputy secretary-general, Ahmed bin Heli, said the meeting will look into the first report by the head of the monitoring mission, which began Dec. 27.

Another official told The Associated Press that the ministerial meeting will discuss whether to pull out the monitors because of the ongoing violence in Syria. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Saturday meeting will not make a final decision, but will send its recommendations to another, high-level ministerial meeting. No date was set for that meeting.

There are about 100 Arab League monitors in Syria, dispatched to verify the regime's compliance with an Arab League plan to stop its crackdown on a 9-month-old uprising.

But activists say hundreds have been slain in the week since the observers started work.

On Monday, League chief Nabil Elaraby acknowledged ongoing bloodshed but insisted the observer mission has yielded important concessions from the Damascus regime, such as the withdrawal of heavy weapons from cities.

Opposition groups have been deeply critical of the mission, saying it is simply giving Assad cover for his crackdown. The Local Coordinating Committees, an umbrella group of activists, says the observer mission is witnessing mainly regime-staged events, and they move about the country only with the full knowledge of the government.