January 8, 2012
January 8, 2012
Heavy clashes broke out before dawn on Sunday ahead of a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers later in the day to discuss whether to ask the United Nations to help their mission in Syria.
The clashes between the Syrian army and deserters left 11 soldiers dead and another 20 wounded, according to the British-based activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The watchdog also reported heavy machinegun exchanges between the army and deserters in the Daraa town of Dael, however there was no immediate word on any casualties.
Also on Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers prepared to meet inCairo to review the record of a widely criticized observer mission toSyria and to assess whether U.N. help is needed in trying to end the bloodshed.
Qatar proposes inviting U.N. technicians and human rights experts to help Arab monitors judge whether Syriais honoring its pledge to stop its repression, Arab League sources said. One said it might ask that U.N. staff helping the mission be Arabs.
A team of Arab League monitors has been in Syria since Dec. 26, trying to assess whether President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is complying with a peace accord aimed at ending its deadly crackdown on dissent.
But critics say it has been completely outmaneuvered by the government and failed to make any progress towards stemming the crackdown, with calls for the mission to pull out.
Dabi, a Sudanese former military intelligence chief ? who is himself the focus of controversy ? said it was too early to judge the mission.
“This is the first time that the Arab League has carried out such a mission,” Dabi told Britain’s Observer in an interview. “But it has only just started, so I have not had enough time to form a view.”
The Arab League has admitted to “mistakes” but defended the mission, saying it had secured the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of tanks from cities.
On the eve of the meeting, the head of the monitoring operations room at the League’s headquarters in Cairo, Adnan al-Khudeir, said the withdrawal of the monitors was not on the agenda and they were continuing their work according to protocols agreed with the Syrian government, Reuters reported.
He said in a statement the delegation could only be withdrawn by a decision of Arab League foreign ministers, who had initially agreed the mission’s parameters.
Ten Jordanian monitors had arrived in Damascus on Saturday, Khudeir said, bringing to 153 the number of monitors involved.
The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the uprising against Assad. The Free Syrian Army, an armed opposition force composed mainly of army deserters, has joined the revolt. The Syrian government says “terrorists” have killed 2,000 members of the security forces during the uprising.
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES