Arab committee wants extended Syria mission

Ministers will discuss peace mission findings; Arab League, UNSC both split on Syria; support for military intervention scant.

By REUTERS
January 22, 2012 15:02
2 minute read.
Arab League monitors in Syria

Arab League monitors in Syria 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/via Reuters Tv/Handout)

CAIRO - An Arab League committee on Syria will ask Arab foreign ministers on Sunday to extend a peace mission in the country by one month, an Arab government source said.

Hundreds of Syrians have been killed since the monitoring mission began its work in late December and political opponents of President Bashar Assad are demanding the League refer Syria to the United Nations Security Council.

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"The committee will recommend an expansion of the monitoring mission for an extra month," said the source, who was attending the committee's meeting in Cairo and asked not to be named.

The foreign ministers are due to meet later on Sunday to debate the findings of the month-long monitoring mission, whose mandate expired on Thursday, and must decide whether to extend, withdraw or strengthen it.

Arab states are divided over how to handle the crisis in Syria and critics say the monitoring mission is handing Assad more time to kill opponents of his rule.

Some want to crank up pressure on Assad to end a 10-month-old crackdown on a popular revolt in which, according to the United Nations, more than 5,000 people have died.

Others worry that weakening Assad could tip Syria, with its potent mix of religious and ethnic allegiances, into a deeper conflict that would destabilise the entire region, and some may fear the threat from their own populations if he were toppled.

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) says the observers lack the resources and clout to truly judge Assad's compliance with an Arab peace plan that Syria signed up to in November and has called upon the Arab League to refer the Syrian crisis to the United Nations Security Council.

But Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia told the head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, that they would oppose such a move, a League source said on Sunday.

"The three states support solving the Syrian crisis inside the Arab League," the source told Reuters.

The head of the monitoring effort, Sudanese General Mohammed al-Dabi, was presenting his findings to the League's Syria committee and the foreign ministers of the 22-member regional body will decide their response later on Sunday.

Syrian opposition activists said Assad's forces killed 35 civilians on Saturday and 30 unidentified corpses were found at a hospital in Idlib. The state news agency SANA said bombs killed at least 14 prisoners and two security personnel in a security vehicle in Idlib province.

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