Saudi to Withdraw Observers From Arab League's Syria Mission
VOA News January 22, 2012
Saudi Arabia says it is withdrawing its observers from Syria in protest at what it calls the Syrian government's failure to respect an Arab League plan to end a violent crackdown on a 10-month old opposition uprising.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal announced the pullout of the Saudi observers Sunday, at a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo. The ministers were discussing whether to extend the mission of the 165 observers they sent to Syria last month to check on that nation's compliance with the peace plan. The observers' one-month mandate expired on Thursday.
Earlier Sunday, a committee of Arab League ministers dealing with the Syrian crisis recommended extending the observer mission for another month and increasing the number of monitors. But, the Arab League mission has drawn heavy criticism from Syrian opposition activists who accuse Damascus of deceiving the observers and using them as a cover to intensify attacks on anti-government protesters and rebels.
The Saudi foreign minister called for more international pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop the violence. He urged other Muslim nations, as well as China, Russia, Europe and the United States to play a role that effort. Saudi Arabia has been one of the harshest Arab critics of Assad's crackdown on the rebellion against his 11-year autocratic rule.
Prominent Syrian opposition group the Syrian National Council has been lobbying the Arab League to abandon the observer mission and refer the Syrian crisis to the U.N. Security Council.
British-based rights activist Rami Abdul-Rahman says forces loyal to Mr. Assad fought with rebels in the Damascus suburb of Douma late Saturday. He says the fighting started when security forces fired on a funeral procession, killing four people. Douma has been a frequent center of anti-Assad unrest.
Syria's government accuses "armed terrorists" of driving the revolt. In a report Sunday, Syrian state news agency SANA says terrorists shot and killed a brigadier general and another senior officer as the two men drove to work in the Damascus countryside. It says two other security personnel were buried Sunday after being attacked in the Damascus countryside and the central region of Homs.
The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syria says terrorists have killed about 2,000 security force members since the unrest began.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.
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