Syria monitor mission 'will continue'

2012-01-05 14:05

Cairo - The Arab League will not withdraw peace monitors from Syria until their month-long mission in the country ends, a representative of an Arab state at the regional body said on Thursday.

The remarks come after Qatar's prime minister said the monitors had made mistakes and the League would study whether to continue their mission.

The League's special committee on Syria is due to meet in Cairo on Sunday to debate the initial findings of the mission, which was set up to monitor a peace plan brokered by the League.

"It is impossible for the Arab League to withdraw its monitors, regardless of the content of any of [the mission's] reports," the Arab government representative said on condition of anonymity.

The League has suspended Syria's membership, citing Assad's failure to adhere to its plan to stop violence which the United Nations says has killed more than 5 000 people since March.

Its monitors are meant to verify whether the government is carrying out a peace plan by withdrawing troops from cities, freeing prisoners and starting dialogue with opponents.

Syrian opposition activists say the mission is failing. Syrian rights groups have reported continued deaths in clashes and protesters taking to the streets to show the observers the scale of their anger. They complain that the observers rely on the government for transportation and logistics.

The Syrian government says it is fighting attacks by foreign-backed militants and is cooperating with the monitors. The government does has banned most international journalists, making it difficult to verify events.

Possible measures

The committee comprises the foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan, Qatar, Oman and Algeria but a source in the League said other countries were invited to join on Sunday and they could call for an urgent meeting of all Arab ministers the same day.

Some officials at the Cairo-based Arab League said countries such as Sudan, Jordan, Egypt and Algeria were wary of ending the mission early, fearing that declaring it a failure might provoke Western military intervention in Syria.

"They are afraid this will become a pattern and could happen later to their own countries," said one League official who asked not to be identified.

Another Arab government representative said the committee was likely to discuss possible measures to help the monitors, such as providing them with vehicles so they can travel around the country without the assistance of Syrian authorities.

He said they would not discuss changing the head of the monitoring mission, a Sudanese general whose selection was criticised by international human rights groups because of his own country's human rights record.