Arab League chief condemns Damascus bombings

AFP , Saturday 24 Dec 2011

Observer mission in Syria, set to commence Monday, will not be affected by bombings

The Arab League chief condemned on Saturday two deadly bombings against Syrian security forces in Damascus, saying the attacks would not affect a mission of observers to oversee an end to the bloodshed.

Nabil El-Arabi, who met the mission's head, Sudanese General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi on Saturday as he prepared to leave for Damascus, also called for "an immediate end to all violence and killings by any side."

Arabi "denounced the two terrorist attacks in Damascus" which killed 44 people and wounded another 166 when suicide bombers hit two security bases in the capital.

"Such criminal bombings will not prevent the Arab League's observer mission from carrying out its task," he said in a statement.

An advance team already in Syria met Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in talks Damascus called "positive."

The first monitors are expected to arrive in Damascus on Monday.

Arab League Assistant Secretary General Samir Seif al-Yazal, head of the advance team, said on Friday that "what has happened is regrettable but the important thing is that everyone stay calm."

"We are going to press on with our work," he added.

The bombings were the first against the powerful security services in the heart of the capital since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March.

The regime blamed the attacks on Al-Qaeda, while the opposition Syrian National Council pointed the finger at the government itself.

The observer mission is part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on November 2 that also calls for the withdrawal of the military from towns and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.

Opposition leaders have charged that Syria's agreement to the mission after weeks of prevarication was a ploy to head off a threat by the Arab League to go to the UN Security Council over crackdown which the UN says has killed more than 5,000 people.

Syria says more than 2,000 security force personnel have been killed in attacks by armed rebels since March.

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