China welcomes Arab League mission in Syria

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China on Thursday expressed its support for Arab monitors in protest-hit Syria, after France charged the team had not been allowed to see what was happening in a flashpoint town.

China is a key Syrian ally, and along with Russia has used its veto on the UN Security Council to block a Western-backed resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"China welcomes the Arab League observers' objective investigations in Syria," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

China "hopes parties concerned can make joint efforts to earnestly implement the mission protocol to create conditions for the proper settlement of Syria's crisis".

The Arab League observers arrived in Syria at the weekend and on Tuesday visited Homs, which has been besieged by government forces for several months.

Mission chief General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi described the visit to Homs as "good", but France's foreign ministry countered the trip had been too brief and insufficiently revealing.

"The... observers must be allowed to return without delay to this martyr city, to travel everywhere in it freely and to have the necessary contact with the public," said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

The mission is part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on November 2 that calls for the withdrawal of security forces from towns and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.

The observers are next due to visit Daraa, cradle of Syria's nine-month anti-regime protests, the northern provinces of Hama and Idlib and the area around the capital Damascus.

The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the crackdown on protests against Assad's regime, which began in mid-March. The government, meanwhile, blames the violence on "armed terrorist" groups.

© 2011 AFP

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