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Arab observer mission ‘remains useful’: opposition

Published on 03/01/2012

An Arab League observer mission currently in strife-ridden Syria "remains useful" even if it cannot impose an Arab peace plan in the country, the leader of the main opposition group said Tuesday.

“We believe that this mission remains useful even if it does not lead to the implementation of the Arab plan,” Syrian National Council (SNC) leader Burhan Ghalioun said after talks with Portugal’s foreign minister.

“It remains politically, morally and psychologically useful,” he added.

Democracy activists on Tuesday denounced as “unprofessional” the Arab League observer mission, after the bloc’s chief admitted snipers were still active in the country despite their presence.

The mission has been mired in controversy since the first observers arrived on December 26, with activists accusing Syria’s regime of keeping the monitors on a short leash as it presses on with its lethal crackdown on dissent.

“Even the Arab League has no illusions about the regime’s ability to meet its commitments,” said Ghalioun.

“But we believe that this step is necessary to show what the situation is like and to produce proof that what is happening in Syria is a revolution of a peaceful population that wants its government to fulfill its desire of freedom.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who will travel to Lisbon on Wednesday for talks with his Portuguese counterpart Paulo Portas, said on Tuesday he was “sceptical” about the progress of the Arab League’s operation.

“The conditions under which this observer mission is operating should be clarified,” Juppe told French television I-Tele.

He questioned whether the observers really had free access to information, but said he would await their report, expected in the coming days, adding: “But I do not consider the battle is already lost.”

Ghalioun called for European Union aid for Syrian opposition forces, saying “a people that has been fighting (Assad) for 10 months needs humanitarian and financial support”.

Ghalioun’s SNC is a major umbrella of factions opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

After weeks of stalling, Syria agreed last month to allow the deployment of observers as part of an Arab roadmap calling for the withdrawal of the military from cities and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.

Despite the presence of the monitors, violence continued on the ground, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying another 11 people were killed in various parts of the country on Monday.

The United Nations estimates more than 5,000 people have been killed in the crackdown since March.