Arab League chief mulls Syria visit as 8 killed in raids

Nabil Elaraby says he wishes to communicate Arab worries about events in Syria, hear opinions of regime; Hama scene of intensified raids.

By REUTERS
September 4, 2011 17:08
2 minute read.
Arab League head Nabil Elaraby

Elaraby 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said on Sunday he may visit Syria this week to voice Arab worries about violence there as local residents and activists said Syrian security forces killed at least eight civilians in intensifying raids into restive northwestern towns.

"The Syrian government told me that it welcomes the visit of the secretary-general at any time, and it will probably be this week," Elaraby told a news conference at the league's headquarters in Cairo.

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"I did not ask for guarantees and will communicate the Arab worries about the incidents in Syria and listen to the opinion of the Syrian authorities," he said.

Sunday's civilian deaths were reported in rural Hama and the adjacent province of Idlib, both areas that have seen intensified raids and arrests of people involved in popular unrest since last week's defection of Hama's attorney general.  He said in a video posted on YouTube that he had resigned in protest at the crackdown on pro-democracy protests, but authorities said he had been kidnapped. Activists said the authorities suspected he was in hiding in the countryside around Hama.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the official news agency SANA said six military personnel and three civilian employees were killed and 17 injured when their military bus was ambushed by an "armed terrorist group" near the town of Mhardat in rural Hama. The agency said three of the gunmen were killed during a chase.

The Syrian government has sent in troops and tanks to crush over five months of street protests demanding Assad steps down, killing at least 2,200 protesters according to the United Nations.

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On Aug. 28, Arab foreign ministers agreed to send Elaraby to Damascus to push for political and economic reforms and asked Syria to end months of bloodshed "before it's too late".

The European Union governments agreed on Friday to ban imports of Syrian oil in a move to strengthen economic pressure on Assad and his government.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the European sanctions imposed on Syria saying they "will lead to nothing good". Russia has long had close ties with Syria and is one of its main arms suppliers.

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