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AL to continue observer mission in Syria despite criticism

(Xinhua)

08:27, January 09, 2012

Arab League (AL) chief Nabil al-Arabi (front R) speaks to Head of the AL observer mission in Syria Sudanese Moustafa Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi prior to the meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 8, 2012. Arab League on Sunday held a ministerial meeting to discuss the Arab observer mission in Syria which has been gripped by bloodshed and violent clashes for ten months. (Xinhua/Qin Haishi)

CAIRO, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- The Arab League (AL) decided on Sunday to continue its observer mission in Syria, despite criticism that the AL so far failed to stop violence and bloodshed in the country.

The decision was made at a ministerial meeting held in Egypt's capital Cairo and chaired by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the pan-Arab body said it decided to continue its observer mission in Syria, calling on the Syrian government to completely and immediately carry out all the items in the protocol it signed with the AL.

The AL ministerial committee on Syria decided to give the observers enough time to fulfill their mission, and the head of the observer mission, Sudanese Moustafa Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi, would submit his report by Jan. 19 to AL chief Nabil al-Arabi.

Meanwhile, the committee decided that the AL will continue its coordination with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to enhance the observer delegation's technical capabilities. It also called on the Syrian government and all the armed groups in the country to halt violent acts and not to interfere with peaceful protests, according to the statement.

The UN secretary general said Friday that the United Nations was ready to provide any technical assistance to the observers in Syria through the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Arab ministers at Sunday's meeting condemned the suicide bombings in Damascus days ago and all violent acts against the Syrian citizens.

They asserted the necessity to provide an appropriate atmosphere and the political, financial and logistic support for the delegation, and said that the number of observers should be increased to achieve the mission's required objectives.

The AL committee also urged its members to help raise fund for the observer mission.

All the concerned Syrian parties have to intensify their efforts to present a clear political vision in accordance with the AL resolutions to meet the Syrians' aspirations in the coming period, the statement added.

The Qatari prime minister praised the observers' efforts under difficult circumstances in Syria. "There were no other routes to walk in. We did a good job though not perfect due to the available capabilities," he said at a press conference after Sunday's meeting.

Amid growing criticism, as well as calls to withdraw the observers from Syria and refer the Syrian crisis to the United Nations, the AL ministerial committee was expected to give a detailed report on the mission. However, Thani said that "we couldn't give fixed dates for the results until we got final reports with accurate details."

Outside the meeting hall, scores of Syrians living in Egypt staged a protest, asking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. They raised Syrian flags and chanted slogans of "stop violence", calling on the Syrian government to stop the bloodshed.

They called for withdrawing the observers, referring the issue to the UN Security Council, and imposing a no-fly zone on Syria to stop the ongoing bloodshed, Egypt's official news agency MENA reported.

The advance team of AL observers to Syria returned to Cairo on Jan. 1 after a 10-day visit to Damascus. The 11-member team, led by Samir Saif al-Yazal, assistant to the AL chief, was assigned to prepare for the observer delegations and to take part in monitoring the situation in Syria.

There are all together 165 observers deployed in Syria as of Sunday, according to a press release from the AL.

Syria signed the AL observer protocol on Dec. 19, 2011 in Cairo after the AL threatened to take the issue to the UN Security Council.

The AL observers are monitoring the situation in Syria as part of an AL peace initiative to end the months-long turmoil in Syria.

The Syrian government said some 2,000 army and security personnel had been killed since the unrest began in March 2011. The United Nations put the total death toll in the country's unrest at more than 5,000.

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