Syria opposition lobbies for UN intervention

AFP , Saturday 21 Jan 2012

Ahead of the Sunday Arab League ministerial meeting in Cairo, Syrian opposition, frustrated with the continued killing of protesters, is reportedly planning to seek the UN Security Council's oversight on Syria

Burhan Ghaliun
Burhan Ghaliun, President of the Syrian National Council opposition group, gives a press conference in Tunis earlier this month. (File photo: AFP)

Opposition Syrian National Council leaders were in Egypt on Saturday to press for UN intervention in Syria as frustration grew over failure by the bloc to stem 10 months of killing.

And the US State Department turned up the pressure, saying it is considering closing its embassy in Damascus over growing safety concerns, as the death toll mounted in the Syrian regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

SNC chief Burhan Ghaliun will meet Arab League head Nabil El-Arabi on the eve of a gathering of Arab foreign ministers to hear a report on a month-long observer mission, whose renewal it is expected to approve.

Ghaliun will tell Arabi the SNC wants "the transfer of the Syria file to the UN Security Council," spokesman Mohammed Sermini told AFP in Cairo.

He will also convey SNC fears that the report may not clearly reflect the situation in Syria, where "the regime is committing genocide and crimes against humanity," Sermini added.

"The report should make a clear difference between the victim and executioner," Sermini said, adding that "leaks" indicate that the report says monitors are unable to determine who is doing the killing.

The head of the mission, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa Al-Dabi of Sudan, will present the report to the ministers, whose meeting will be preceded by one of a panel on the Syrian crisis chaired by Qatar.

The League's deputy chief of operations, Ali Jarush, said Dabi is satisfied with the achievements of the operation so far and that "everything indicates that 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 which they previously lacked," he said.

Qatar has called for the dispatch of Arab troops to Syria -- a move rejected by Damascus and apparently by many Arab countries, as well, because they do not want the conflict "internationalised," diplomats said.

Human Rights Watch said the observers' presence had failed to rein in the crackdown, with activists reporting 506 civilians killed and another 490 detained since the monitors first deployed on 26 December.

On Friday, thousands of people poured out of mosques after weekly prayers to call for the ouster of President Bashar Al-Assad's regime. They also demanded the government deliver on its promise to the Arab League to release tens of thousands of people arrested since protests first erupted in March.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another eight civilians were killed by security forces around the country, while one security force member died and the bodies of six people were returned to their families after they had disappeared days earlier.

HRW urged the League "to publicly recognise that Syria has not respected the League's plan and work with the Security Council to increase pressure on the authorities and effectively curtail the use of fire power."

And the SNC's Sermini has told AFP the group is "preparing a counter report" to Dabi's.

In Washington the State Department said: "We have serious concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Damascus, including the recent spate of car bombs, and about the safety and security of embassy personnel."

"We have requested that the government of Syria take additional security measures to protect our embassy, and the Syrian government is considering that request," a statement said.

"We have also advised the Syrian government that unless concrete steps are taken in the coming days we may have no choice but to close the mission," it added.

Ahmad El-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Muslim learning, urged "Arab rulers to take the necessary measures to halt bloodshed in Syria," Egypt's state news agency MENA reported.

Short link: