Syria observer mission to be renewed, diplomat says

An Arab League official said on Friday there are growing indications the bloc will renew the mandate of an observer mission to Syria rather than agree to a Qatari proposal to send in troops to quell unrest.

"All indications point to the extension of the observer mission in Syria and that the number of monitors will be increased to some 300," the official, who declined to be identified, told AFP.

"Many Arab countries have rejected the idea of sending Arab troops to Syria" in line with a suggestion by Qatar, he said ahead of a decisive meeting of Arab foreign ministers to decide the fate of the much-criticized monitoring mission.

The official also noted that Damascus – which has slammed Qatar's proposal – favors extending the mission for a second month.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem reportedly said this week Damascus would like the observers to pursue their work, while regime opponents want the operation to stop and international intervention to stop the bloodshed.

Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo on Sunday to decide whether the mission will be extended.

Meanwhile, Syria chief of operations at the Arab League, Adnan Khodeir, said on Friday that the head of the mission will arrive in Cairo on Saturday to submit his second report to the organization’s chief, Nabil al-Arabi.

General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi had been due in Cairo late on Thursday, but delayed his arrival after the Arab League rescheduled a meeting of a Syria task force from Saturday to Sunday, ahead of the ministerial talks.

A spokesperson for the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) told AFP in Cairo that the group is "preparing a counter report" to the one Dabi is due to submit to the Arab League.

Mohammed Sermini said the SNC report would cover the situation in Syria during the month-long mission of the Arab observers who have come under scathing attack by activists who say they failed to stop the bloodshed.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,400 people have been killed in the Syrian regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protests since mid-March.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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