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Arab League meets to review Syria observer mission

The Arab League hears a report about their mission that has failed to reign in the Syrian government's crackdown on protesters in a closed meeting

AFP , Sunday 22 Jan 2012
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An Arab League panel began closed-doors talks Sunday to hear a report on its heavily criticised observer mission to unrest-hit Syria hours before a decisive ministerial meeting on the future of the operation.

The panel, chaired by the foreign minister of Qatar, also comprises his counterparts from Algeria, Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi was present at the Cairo talks and was to chair a broader meeting of foreign ministers from the 22-member bloc to decide the future of the mission launched a month ago.

League officials have said the bloc was likely to extend and expand the observer mission to Syria, despite staunch criticism that the operation has failed to stem 10 months of deadly violence.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in a government crackdown on dissent since the monitors first deployed there in late December.

Mission chief, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa Al-Dabi of Sudan, was to deliver the much-awaited report and believes his mandate needs to be strengthened, not scrapped, a League official said.

Dabi said the mission's mandate "is to verify that the Syrian government has implemented the terms of an Arab League plan to solve the crisis not to stop the bloodshed and violence."

"Observer teams deployed across Syria, namely flashpoints where protests are underway, have found cooperation," he said in an Arab League statement issued late on Saturday, without elaborating.

"This shows the monitors are being professional and objective in carrying out their mission," said the Sudanese general.

On Friday the deputy chief of operations Ali Jarush said Dabi was satisfied with the mission's achievements so far and that "everything indicates the observer mission in Syria will be extended by a month."

"Dabi sees that in the last phase the necessary thrust [of the operation] was achieved after more monitors were deployed and fanned across 20 areas and after they were provided with equipment and logistics," he said.

The Arab League could expand the mission to more than 300 observers from more than 160 now deployed across Syria, according to a source in the mission.

But the opposition Syrian National Council has been lobbying for UN intervention and said it will reveal "a counter-report" later on Sunday to try to discredit Dabi's account.

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