Arab League Studying ‘New’ Syrian Conditions for Observers

Posted December 6th, 2011 at 2:25 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The Arab League says it is studying a Syrian proposal to conditionally allow observers into the country to monitor Syrian compliance with a pledge to stop cracking down on a nine-month pro-democracy uprising.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said Monday a letter he received from the Syrian government contained “new” conditions that the regional bloc had not heard before.

Earlier, the Syrian foreign ministry said Damascus responded “positively” to the Arab League's demand for observers to be let into Syria. But, foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the Syrian government also asked the league to cancel Syria's suspension from bloc and scrap proposed sanctions in return for signing an agreement about observers.

The 22-member regional bloc has increased pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the crackdown in recent weeks as violence in the country has escalated.

Syrian rights activists say Assad loyalists kidnapped and killed 34 civilians in the central city of Homs on Monday. Homs has been a focal point of protests against Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. The activists say witnesses reported seeing the bodies of the hostages in a square in a pro-Assad part of the city.

Elsewhere, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says army defectors killed four pro-Assad security personnel in the southern province of Daraa.

The United States also has been trying to isolate the Assad government. U.S. officials say Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to meet seven exiled Syrian dissidents in Geneva on Tuesday in a gesture of support for the opposition movement.

The European Union and United States already have imposed sanctions on Syria for refusing to end the suppression of opposition protests. French oil company Total said Monday it suspended a joint venture with a Syrian company to comply with the EU sanctions.

Also Monday, a top Syrian customs official said Damascus is suspending a free trade agreement with neighboring Turkey and imposing a 30 percent customs duty on Turkish imports in retaliation for Turkish sanctions on Syria.

The United Nations says violence linked to the Syrian crackdown has killed more than 4,000 people since the uprising began in March.