CAIRO,(Reuters) – 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 check 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, on Sunday said 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, told Reuters 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 and killing of innocent Syrian civilians was a “blatant violation to the Arab League’s protocol”, Dekbas said.
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 “terrorists” in the country and say 2,000 of the government’s soldiers and police have been killed.