Advisory body to Arab League says mission is allowing Damascus to cover up violence
An Arab League advisory body called on Sunday for the immediate withdrawal of the organisation's monitoring mission in Syria, saying it was allowing Damascus to cover up continued violence and abuses.
The Arab League has sent a small team to Syria to verify whether President Bashar al-Assad is keeping his promise to end a crackdown on a nine-month uprising against his rule.
The observer mission has already stirred controversy. Rights groups have reported continued deaths in clashes and tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to show the observers the extent of their anger.
The Sudanese head of the mission also infuriated some observers by suggesting he was reassured by first impressions of Homs, one of the main centres of unrest.
The Arab Parliament, an 88-member advisory committee of delegates from each of the League's member states, said on Sunday the violence was continuing to claim many victims.
"For this to happen in the presence of Arab monitors has roused the anger of Arab people and negates the purpose of sending a fact-finding mission," the organisation's chairman, Ali al-Salem al-Dekbas, said.
"This is giving the Syrian regime an Arab cover for continuing its inhumane actions under the eyes and ears of the Arab League," he said.
The Arab Parliament was the first body to recommend freezing Syria's membership in the organisation in response to Assad's crackdown.
An Arab League official, commenting on the parliament's statement, said it was too early to judge the mission's success, saying it was scheduled to remain in Syria for a month and that more monitors were on their way.
The parliament called on the League's Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to convene a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to adopt a resolution to withdraw the mission immediately.
The continued abuse of innocent Syrian civilians was a "blatant violation to the Arab League's protocol", Dekbas said.
Some of the Arab delegates who had gone to Syria to prepare for the visit of the monitors before the first team arrived last week returned to Cairo on Sunday.
The delegation's head, Samir Saif el-Yazel, an assistant to the Arab League general-secretary, refused to talk to reporters at Cairo airport and said any new developments on the mission to Syria would be announced in statements by the Arab League.
Syria's state news agency SANA said there had been "massive demonstrations" throughout Syria on Friday in support of Assad, and denouncing "the plot which Syria is exposed to".
It said demonstrators had denounced "the pressure and biased campaigns targeting Syria's security and stability" and the "lies and fabrications of the misleading media channels".
Syrian authorities have accused foreign powers of arming and funding militants in the country and say 2,000 of the government's soldiers and police have been killed.