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21 Jan, 2012 11:21

Amid more carnage, Arab League mulls longer stay in Syria

Tensions are growing in Syria as the Arab League prepares to present a detailed assessment of the monitoring mission’s findings on the situation in the country. Meanwhile, the opposition is getting ready to release its own report.

A report prepared by the head of the mission, Gen. Mohammed al-Dabi, will be the main topic of discussion at an Arab League meeting Saturday in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.On Friday, Human Rights Watch urged the Arab League to release the observers' report to the public, but the League’s ministerial committee said it would have to discuss its next moves first.Agence France Press reported Saturday that Arab League deputy chief of operations, Ali Jarush, says al-Dabi is satisfied with the achievements of the operation – and that the mission is likely to be extended.But the Syrian National Council (SNC), the country's main opposition group, claim that “leaks” from the report say monitors were unable to determine who is committing the killing.A decision on whether the Arab League's observers will remain in Syria for another month is expected to be made on Sunday.If the result is positive, more monitors will be sent to Syria in three days following a short training period, despite complaints from the Syrian opposition that the mission has failed to curb bloodshed in the country.On Saturday, the SNC also formally requested that the Arab League refer Syria’s case to the UN Security Council.The organisation is pushing for the League to address the Syrian crisis in terms of “genocide” and “war crimes."At the same time a group of leading Syrian opposition figures is reportedly preparing to release its "counter report.""We should submit such a report to the Arab league to reveal to the members what exactly happened when the observers were in Syria, because we believe the report which the head of the observing mission will present will not reveal everything," an unnamed source was quoted by the Germany-based DPA news agency as saying.  Meanwhile, street demonstrations are continuing across Syria, both for and against the ruling Assad regime.  According to media reports, the president’s supporters gathered for a pro-government demonstration in central Damascus on Friday. Protesters oppose any foreign intervention, demanding unity and reforms instead of anarchy. Conversely, there have been numerous reports that thousands of people across Syria attended Friday rallies called by activists "in support of the revolution's prisoners."The 165-strong observer mission has been in Syria since December 26 to oversee how an Arab League peace roadmap is being implemented.  The roadmap stipulates that the Syrian government should stop violence against protesters and pull its military out of cities, release prisoners detained because of current events, begin talks with the opposition and allow monitors to move freely across all parts of Syria to see the reality of the situation.On January, 15 President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree granting a general amnesty for crimes committed during the Syrian uprising, which began in March 2011. Despite this, Syrian activists report continuing violence against civilians. The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed since the start of the mass protests. The Syrian authorities insist 2,000 members of the security forces have also been killed.According to local activists, security forces have killed 506 civilians since the Arab League monitors began their mission in Syria on December 26, 2011.