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Syria would let Arab observers stay, but without wider mandate

Damascus doesn't rule out extension of ongoing Arab monitoring mission but rejects proposed expansion of mission's scope

Reuters , Tuesday 17 Jan 2012
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Syria would not object to extending an Arab League mission to monitor its compliance with a peace plan, but will not accept an expansion in the scope of its mandate, an Arab source said on Tuesday.

An Arab League observer team in Syria since late December is expected to report this week that Damascus has failed to fully implement a peace deal plan aimed at ending ten months of violence.

The mission's mandate expires on Thursday, and Arab League foreign ministers are set to discuss its future when they meet on 22 January.

"The outcome of the contacts that have taken place over the past week between the Arab League and Syria have affirmed that Syria will not reject the renewal of the Arab monitoring mission for another month... if the Arab foreign ministers call for this at the coming meeting," the source said.

Some Arab countries say the monitors need a broader mandate to help stop violence if the mission is to be continued. Qatar has even suggested sending Arab troops.

The source said Syria would agree to allow the number of monitors – now fewer than 200 – to be increased, but would not allow them to be given formal fact-finding duties or be allowed into "military zones" that are not yet agreed upon. 

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