France, Britain join Syria peace push at UN

Arab League monitors say withdrawal of some 50 observers won't affect their mission, pledge to continue.

Assad flags, Damascus_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Assad flags, Damascus_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
DAMASCUS - Arab League monitors said the withdrawal of colleagues by Gulf Arab states would not hinder their work in Syria while France and Britain on Wednesday joined efforts at the United Nations to end President Bashar Assad's rule.
"The UN Security Council must support the Arab League's courageous decisions which are trying to end the repression and violence in Syria and find a solution to the political crisis," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
"Our aim is to get a resolution approved." The Security Council could vote as early as next week on a Western-Arab draft resolution, council diplomats said.
US President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address that Assad would "soon discover that the forces of change can't be reversed".
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country remained opposed to sanctions on Syria and reiterated its opposition to military intervention.
But it is unclear whether Russia is prepared to wield its veto powers again to block council action on Syria.
More than 50 observers from Gulf Arab states left Syria on Wednesday after their governments said they were certain "the bloodshed and killing of innocents would continue".
Their colleagues in Damascus, about 120 strong, pledged to continue the monitoring mission, now extended until Feb. 23, to verify Syria's compliance with an earlier Arab peace plan.
"The departure of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries will not have an impact on the mission's work. We are all professionals here and we can do the job," said a senior Arab monitor, who asked not to be named.
"We need more monitors of course and more will come soon to replace those who left."

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Syrian opposition groups have accused the observer mission, which began on Dec. 26, of giving Assad diplomatic cover to pursue a crackdown on protesters and rebels in which more than 5,000 people have been killed since March, by a UN tally.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who heads the League's committee on Syria, wrote jointly to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon setting out their plan for a political solution in Syria.
Several diplomats at the United Nations said France and Britain were working with Qatar and other Arab delegations on a new draft resolution supporting the Arab League plan which envisages Assad stepping down and making way for a unity government to halt the bloodshed of a 10-month uprising.
Valero said the talks should enable the Security Council to support and enforce the Arab plan by giving it the necessary international guarantees for it to be implemented.