Arab League Monitors to Remain in Syria Until Sunday

Posted January 19th, 2012 at 1:50 pm (UTC-5)
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An Arab League observer mission to Syria will remain in that country until Sunday when Arab foreign ministers are due to review a report by the team's Sudanese chief.

An Arab League official in Cairo says mission leader Sudanese General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi is due back in the Egyptian capital late Thursday to hand over his report to representatives of the 22-member bloc.

Adnan al-Khudeir says the Arab League foreign ministers will study the report to decide whether to keep the team of about 165 observers in Syria for another month. The initial one-month mandate expired Thursday but the mission will be continued at least through Sunday.

The observers have been trying to verify if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is keeping its pledge to stop the violent suppression of a 10-month-old uprising against his 11-year autocratic rule.

Syrian rights groups have criticized the observers' effectiveness, saying the Assad government has deceived the team and escalated deadly attacks on the opposition since the observers began work on December 26.

Qatar's ruling emir has called for Arab troops to be deployed in Syria to stop the government crackdown. Syria has rejected the idea.

Syrian opposition activists say government tanks and troops withdrew from the rebel-held town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border late Wednesday as part of a cease-fire agreement with the Free Syrian Army.

They say pro-Assad forces that fought the rebels for days, took up positions at military bases several kilometers from Zabadani. Activists expressed concern that the Syrian government could renew an assault on the town.

Zabadani has been a frequent site of opposition protests since the start of the revolt. Army defectors who have joined the uprising in recent months have not managed to hold territory for a prolonged period.

Meanwhile, Syrian rights activists say a group of soldiers on Thursday killed a military intelligence general after defying his order to fire on civilians in the central region of Homs. They say pro-Assad forces also killed at least nine people in crackdowns on opposition hubs.

The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syria says “terrorists” have killed about 2,000 members of the security forces since the unrest began.