League observers to report back on Syria
Anti-Syrian regime protesters chant slogans and flash victory signs as they march during a demonstration in the mountain resort town of Zabadani, Syria. AP photoThe head of the Arab League’s heavily criticized observer mission to Syria was due in Cairo yesterday to report on its first month of operations amid growing frustration at its failure to staunch 10 months of bloodshed.
The pan-Arab bloc’s deputy leader, Ahmed Ben Helli, said the “decisive” report would evaluate the Syrian government’s cooperation with the mission, while noting the observers’ difficulty in gaining access to hot spots. “We are at a turning point, as the Arab observer mission’s report will be presented on Thursday, marking a month since the protocol was signed,” Ben Helli told Qatari state media late on Jan. 18.
“The report will be decisive,” Ben Helli added. The League’s Syria operations chief, Adnan Khodeir, said mission leader General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi was expected to arrive at the bloc’s headquarters in Cairo in the afternoon. He would then hand over the report to League chief Nabil al-Arabi ahead of meetings of Arab ministers on the weekend. Qatar, whose Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani chairs the Arab League panel on Syria, has been pressing for the observer mission to be given teeth through the deployment of Arab peacekeeping troops. The Qatari proposal is not formally on the agenda of Sunday’s foreign ministers’ meeting to discuss the mission’s future but could be discussed, Khodeir told Agence France-Presse.
As activists reported another nine deaths at the hands of the Syrian security forces yesterday, a coalition of some 140 Arab human rights groups demanded the withdrawal of the League’s “flawed” mission and called for U.N. intervention. Among the dead, were four leading pro-democracy activists who had gone into hiding and were killed in an ambush in Idlib province in the northwest, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.