Sunday, February 12, 2012

Syria Observer Head From Sudan Resigns

Syria observer chief resigns: Arab official

The Sudanese head of Arab League observers to Syria resigned on Sunday

Sun, Feb 12, 2012

CAIRO - The controversial head of Arab League observers to Syria resigned on Sunday, an official said, as the bloc met to decide on reviving the mission jointly with the UN, in the latest bid to end bloodshed.

Sudanese General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi was due to officially hand in his resignation at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo later in the day, an Arab League official told AFP.

As talks began in the Egyptian capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported army shelling killed at least four civilians in the central protest city of Homs, including three in the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr.

The Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that another 30 tanks and armoured personnel carriers were on the way to Homs, which armed forces have pounded for more than week, killing at least 500 people, according to activists.

General Dabi served under Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges connected with the nine-year-old conflict in Darfur.

He sparked outrage when he said that he was satisfied with the observer mission to Syria, even though it failed to halt President Bashar al-Assad's bloody 11-month crackdown on dissent.

In Cairo, the Arab League's foreign ministers were expected to consider proposals for the observer mission, withdrawn last month because of an upsurge in violence, to be returned with UN reinforcement.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon broached the idea this month as he bemoaned the Security Council's failure to agree a resolution on the crisis in the face of Chinese and Russian opposition.

The 22-member League has put forward a plan for Assad to hand over power to his deputy and for the formation of a government of national unity ahead of elections.

On the eve of the talks, the Syrian National Council said Arab recognition of the opposition umbrella group was imminent. So far only post-revolt Libya recognises the SNC as its sole Syrian interlocutor.

On Sunday, Syrian government newspaper Ath-Thawra accused Arab nations of being in the pay of Western powers.

"There will probably be no surprises because the orders have already been sent. They do not decide anything; they just carry out orders. They have done that in the past and they will do it today," it said, referring to the Cairo meetings.

State television aired live footage Sunday of an official funeral for the 28 people authorities say were killed in twin car bombs that ripped through the northern city of Aleppo on Friday.

The authorities blamed "terrorists" for the attacks, but the rebel Free Syrian Army accused the regime of launching them "to steer attention away from what it is doing in Homs, Zabadani and elsewhere."

A US media report citing unnamed American officials said Al-Qaeda's Iraqi branch was likely to have carried out the Aleppo bombings, along with attacks in Damascus in December and January.

The bombings appeared to verify Assad's charges of Al-Qaeda involvement in the uprising against his 11-year rule, said the McClatchy Newspapers chain.

Iraq's deputy interior minister said jihadists were moving from Iraq to Syria, as were weapons being sent to Assad's opponents.

"We have intelligence information that a number of Iraqi jihadists went to Syria," Adnan al-Assadi told AFP, adding "weapons smuggling is still ongoing."

And Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri voiced his support for Syria's uprising in a new video posted on jihadist Internet forums, US monitors SITE Intelligence said.

"I appeal to every Muslim and every free, honourable one in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, to rise to help his brothers in Syria with all that he can," he was quoted as saying.

Forty-five people were killed across Syria on Saturday, most of them civilians, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Homs activist Hadi Abdullah accused policemen and soldiers of pillaging the city's Inshaat district. "They are stealing computers, television sets... and even blankets."

Security forces also advanced into Zabadani, the Observatory said, adding three civilians were killed in the town between Damascus and the Lebanese border.

In Lebanon, a 17-year-old girl was among three people killed in clashes on Saturday between Sunnis hostile to Syria's regime and Alawites who support it, a security official said.

Ten Lebanese soldiers were among 23 people wounded.

The rival factions in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, fired guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the bloodiest clashes since June, when six people died in the wake of demonstrations against Syria's government.

And on Sunday Pope Benedict XVI made an urgent appeal "for an end to the violence and bloodshed" in Syria and urged "its political authorities to choose dialogue and peace."

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