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Syrians to rally against Arab League mission

Syrian pro-democracy activists plan to rally after midday prayers Friday against an Arab League observer mission they say will stall tougher action against the government over its opposition crackdown.

An Arab League advance team arrived in Syria Thursday to oversee a plan to end nine months of bloodshed as the opposition accused regime forces of "massacring" hundreds in two days.

But using the slogan "Protocol of death, a license to kill", activists called on Facebook for nationwide protests against the mission.

Opposition leaders have charged that Syria's agreement to the mission was a mere "ploy" to head off a threat by the Arab League to go to the UN Security Council.

"We call on the Arab League to refer the matter of the crisis in Syria to the UN Security Council," said Omar Edelbi, spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees, which have been driving the protests on the ground.

He called the observer mission "another attempt by the regime to bypass the Arab initiative and empty it of its contents.”

Even as the advance team arrived there was no let-up in the killing, with activists reporting at least 21 more people dead, and clashes between defectors and troops in the flashpoints of Homs and Edleb.

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

The advance team consists of a dozen security, legal and administrative staff from the Arab League's secretariat, who will make the logistical preparations for the arrival on Sunday of an initial 30 observers.

The mission's leader, veteran Sudanese military intelligence officer General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said its numbers would swell to a total of between 150 and 200 in the following days.

Their task will be to monitor the "cessation of violence on all sides, and to ensure the release of detainees arrested in connection with the current crisis," according to the text of the protocol.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

For live updates on the Syrian uprising, follow @NOW_Syria on Twitter or click here.