Arab League to Hold Review Session on Syria Observers’ Work

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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Arab League ministers will meet Saturday to review an observer team's assessment of whether the Syrian government is keeping its pledge to end a crackdown on dissent.

Arab officials say the meeting of the League ministerial committee on the Syrian crisis will be held in Cairo. A group of 70 Arab League observers led by a Sudanese general has been operating in Syria since last week, even as violence has continued.

Arab League chief Nabil El Araby said this week that snipers and gunfire remain a threat in Syrian cities, despite the presence of the monitors. Syrian opposition activists have criticized the monitoring mission, saying it provides a cover to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to continue the crackdown on the 10-month rebellion against his autocratic rule.

El Araby has defended the observers, saying they have secured key concessions from Syria such as the release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of tanks from cities where opposition activists stage frequent anti-Assad protests.

The Syrian president faced more Western pressure Tuesday, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling on him to resign for committing “disgusting massacres” against the Syrian people. Mr. Sarkozy said Syrians should be allowed to choose their own destiny.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency says an armed terrorist group blew up a gas pipeline near the central town of Rastan on Tuesday, cutting supplies to two power plants. It said the pipeline blast will force authorities to extend daily power cuts by one hour. Mr. Assad blames armed terrorists for violence linked to the revolt.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed since March in the Syrian government's crackdown on protests inspired by the Arab Spring democracy movement.

Speaking Monday, El Araby said 70 monitors are in six Syrian cities, with 30 more monitors to join them soon. He said the monitors so far have secured the release of about 3,500 prisoners in Syria. But, Syrian rights activists said more than 150 people have been killed across Syria since the observers began their mission.