League defends observers, accepts snipers and gunfire
DAMASCUS / GAZİANTEP
Furniture pieces of Syria’s Gaziantep consulate general were moved from the building. The consulate halted all diplomatic procedures last week. DHA photoThe Arab League chief said yesterday al-Assad government has withdrawn heavy weapons from inside cities and freed about 3,500 prisoners though snipers and gunfire continue to threaten civilian lives in Syria and called for the shootings to end.
Nabil al-Arabi defended the observers in his first remarks since the Arab monitors were deployed in Syria a week ago, saying the “mission needs more time.” “There are still snipers and gunfire. There must be a total halt to the gunfire,” Arabi said, even as monitors strive to stem the persistent bloodshed.
The issue will be raised with the government of President Bashar al-Assad, he told reporters in Cairo, “because the aim is to stop the shooting and protect civilians.” But “it is difficult to say who is firing on whom,” al-Arabi added. On Jan. 1, the Arab Parliament, an advisory body of the 22-member Arab League, intensified the pressure saying the monitors should be immediately withdrawn having failed to halt the government’s deadly crackdown. Arab League prepares to send a new team to Syria on Jan. 5. On the ground, three more civilians were reportedly killed by security force gunfire, while mutinous soldiers carried out attacks on three positions of the regular army, a watchdog and activists said. Meanwhile, Syria evacuated Jan. 2 its consulate general in Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep. A number of furniture pieces would be sent to Syrian Embassy in Ankara and others to the Consulate General in Istanbul, sources said. Syria closed its consulate general in Gaziantep for five days at the beginning of December, but then it re-opened the consulate. It totally halted diplomatic procedures as of Dec. 26, 2011.
Compiled from AFP and AA stories by the Daily News.