Arab League Suspends Observer Mission in Syria

Posted January 28th, 2012 at 12:15 pm (UTC-5)
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The Arab League says it is suspending its observer mission in Syria due to an upsurge of violence in the country.

Arab League secretary-general Nabil Elaraby said Saturday the organization decided to halt the observers' work after talks with Arab foreign ministers.

He blamed Syria's government for the escalation of violence and said the victims have been “innocent civilians.”

Arab League officials said some of the observers will stay in Syria until further notice.

The mission has been in Syria for the past month to monitor the Syrian regime's deadly crackdown on dissent. The Arab League has put forth a plan calling for President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to a deputy and form a national unity government to prepare for elections.

More than 70 people have been killed in Syria in recent days.

Activists say fighting raged Saturday near several rebel-held suburbs of Damascus. They note that Syrian forces used tanks and armored personnel carriers in the clashes.

The head of the Arab League mission said Friday violence has increased in Syria since Tuesday, especially in the flashpoint cities of Homs and Hama, and in the northern Idlib region.

The Arab League's Nabil Elaraby and the prime minister of Qatar plan on Tuesday to brief the U.N. Security Council about the league's mission in Syria, which has been plagued by difficulties and has come under criticism.

Meanwhile, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region backed minority Kurds in Syria, who have rallied against Mr. Assad's rule during 10 months of nationwide protests. Massoud Barzani made his remarks Saturday at a conference of Syrian Kurds in Irbil, the capital Iraqi Kurdistan. He called on Syria's Kurdish people to remain united.

More than two million Kurds live in Syria.

The United Nations says violence linked to the unrest in Syria has killed more than 5,400 people, including nearly 400 children. But the U.N. said this week it has stopped compiling a death toll because it is too hard to obtain information.