Oman 'optimistic' Syria will sign protocol by Monday

AFP , Sunday 18 Dec 2011

Arab League officials expect embattled Syrian regime to approve proposal for observer mission within 24 hours

The Arab League is "optimistic" that by Monday Syria will sign a proposal to send an observer mission to the restive country, the Omani minister responsible for foreign affairs said on Sunday.

"We are optimistic that Syria will join the Arab League and sign the protocol within the next 24 hours," Yussef bin Alawi told reporters in Riyadh.

The 22-member Arab bloc has been trying to persuade Damascus to accept observers to monitor the situation as part of a plan to end the bloodshed.

On 27 November, the Arab bloc approved a raft of sanctions against Syria for failing to heed an ultimatum to admit observers.

Earlier this month, Syria finally said it would allow the mission, but laid down a number of conditions, including the lifting of sanctions.

Alawi said the Arab League would meet on Wednesday to discuss Syria.

"If it doesn't sign, we will take decisions," he added without elaborating.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani said on Saturday that the meeting would be held in Cairo. He accused Damascus of stalling on the Arab League proposal.

He warned that the League would take Syria to the UN Security Council if it persisted in refusing to admit observers to monitor the protection of civilians.

Iraq, Syria's neighbour, is also taking steps to help mediate a solution.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the government crackdown on pro-democracy protests that erupted in mid-March.

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