Syria Says Responds ‘Positively’ to Arab Demands for Observers

Posted December 5th, 2011 at 7:05 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Syria says it has responded “positively” to an Arab League demand to let observers into the country to verify a pledge by President Bashar al-Assad to stop a deadly crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Monday the government made the response in a letter to Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby late Sunday. The League had demanded that Syria authorize the entry of an observer mission from the bloc by Sunday or face new sanctions. There was no immediate comment on the Syrian letter from the 22-member regional bloc.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership and approved a series of sanctions last month in response to Syrian defiance of a previous ultimatum to accept observers, end the crackdown and start a dialogue with the opposition. Syria had complained that a large observer mission would undermine its sovereignty.

The sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes on the Syrian leadership. Arab League ministers who met in Doha Saturday agreed to impose the sanctions on 19 Syrian officials, including President Assad's brother Maher, who leads one of the military's most powerful divisions.

Syrian rights activists say Syrian troops and pro-government militiamen killed at least 35 people Sunday during attacks on residents of protest hubs, and in fighting with army defectors. The activists say most of the killings happened in the central province of Homs, a center of the nine-month uprising. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties.

Activists say Syrian authorities also detained prominent dissident blogger Razan Ghazzawi at the Syrian-Jordanian border as she was traveling to Amman to attend a regional conference on press freedom. She is the latest of thousands of dissidents to be arrested in the government crackdown.

Syria says it is fighting terrorists who have attacked civilians and security forces. It has warned that any foreign intervention in the unrest will spread chaos throughout the region.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden played down that warning Sunday. Speaking to reporters after talks with Turkish leaders in Istanbul, he said the United States and Turkey believe the Syrian uprising can be resolved with any violence being contained within Syria, and with Syrians managing their own transition of power.

Another senior U.S. official accused President Assad of forcing his minority Alawite sect into a deadly conflict with other sectarian groups. Speaking on a visit to Amman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman also criticized Syria's ally Iran, accusing it of being “actively engaged” in supporting Mr. Assad's crackdown and “facilitating” the murder of Syrian people.