Syria anti-gov't protesters in Cairo_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Arab League signaled Sunday it would call for an end to violence in Syria,
but stopped short of asking the UN to send experts to bolster the Arab peace
mission to the country.
A leaked draft statement says violence by Syrian
security forces against anti-government protesters has continued and the
military has failed to withdraw from cities. It says the government has only
partially complied with its pledge to release political prisoners, with citizens
complaining that some are still being detained in unknown locations.
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Arab plan also called for Assad’s government to permit peaceful protests, start
dialogue with political opponents and allow foreign media to travel freely to
the country. Syria agreed, but the pledge remains unfulfilled.
the monitors might send a signal that Arab efforts to bring one of their own to
heel have failed and be taken as a green light for foreign military
intervention, which many Arab governments fiercely oppose, like that which
helped topple Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi last year.
But Marc Hussein of the
exiled Reform Party of Syria said Syria presents a fundamentally different
situation than Libya, because of both Western economic interests in the former
and lingering Arab support for the latter.
“Libya is a big land, not
close to Israel, and it has oil and gas.
Libya is more attractive in
terms of economics and investing,” he told The Jerusalem Post from
Hussein said rallying Arab support for Libya-style military
intervention would be extremely difficult. “The situation in Syria is different.
Russia, China, Iraq and Iran support Syria. Lebanon is still under Syrian
control, and in Jordan there are 1.5 million Palestinians, who also support
Syria,” he said.
The Arab League convened an emergency meeting in Cairo
on Sunday, attended by the foreign ministers of Egypt and Qatar and officials
from Saudi Arabia and other influential Arab states. Delegates examined
monitors’ findings since starting work December 26, and discussed ways for
observers to work more independently of Syrian authorities.
of Saudi and Egyptian representatives gives weight to the committee’s decisions
because other League states tend to follow their lead.
pressure from Qatar, which chairs the committee on Syria, and regional
powerhouse Saudi Arabia, some are playing down the chances of a harsh rebuke of
Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying it could burn bridges with his
“We don’t expect today’s meeting will come up with something
that would fully condemn one party, because this will mean an end to the
relationship between the Arab League and this party,” a League source said
The initial report from the monitors would acknowledge the Syrian
government’s release of 3,484 detainees and make “a request to the Syrian regime
for full cooperation with the monitors,” a League source said.
also call on the Syrian opposition to help monitors by providing names and
locations of people detained by the government, the source said.
of Assad’s opponents gathered outside the Cairo hotel where the meeting was
taking place, chanting: “The people want the president dead” and “Down, down
with Bashar.” Some waved caricatures of Assad that likened him to the vampire
Dracula, sucking the lifeblood from the Syrian people.
Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said on Friday there had been no end
to the killing in Syria and the monitors could not stay in the country to “waste
Assad’s failure to abide by an Arab League peace plan saw Syria
suspended from the 22- member regional body in November and the country now
faces economic sanctions.
Eleven Syrian soldiers were killed and 20 were
wounded in clashes with army defectors on Sunday in the village of Basr al-Harir
in the southern province of Deraa, the Britishbased Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights said. It did not report any casualties among the army
Syria says it is providing the monitors with all they need and
has urged them to show “objectivity and professionalism.”
The UN and
opposition groups estimate that between 5,000 and 6,000 people have been killed
in the uprising against Assad since March.