Arab League urged to transfer Syria case to UN

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An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube shows Syrian protesters holding up an anti-regime banner during a demonstration against the authorities' crackdown on dissent in the village of Hass in the restive Idlib region, near the borther with Turkey on 20 January 2012. (Photo: AFP - YouTube)

Published Friday, January 20, 2012

Head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), Burhan Ghalioun, will visit Cairo to lobby Arab officials to refer its observer mission to the UN Security Council ahead of a planned Arab League meeting on Sunday.

A widely criticized League observer mission hangs in the balance as its head, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, prepares to report to Arab foreign ministers, who will decide on Sunday whether to extend it for a second month.

Ghalioun plans to "ask the head of the Arab League and Arab foreign ministers to transfer the file on Syria to the UN Security Council with a view to securing a decision to establish a buffer zone and a no-fly zone" in Syria, an SNC statement said.

The group, which has been strongly critical of the observer mission, said it would demand that Dabi pull no punches in his findings on the Damascus regime's compliance with the Arab League agreement.

"The SNC delegation will insist that the report contain a clear text concerning the 'genocide' and 'war crimes' carried out by the (Syrian) regime against unarmed civilians," the statement said.

The SNC has not elaborated how a buffer zone would be achieved, and whether it would require foreign military intervention or an unlikely approval from the Syrian regime.

The call is a far cry from the SNC's previous stance which opposed foreign intervention, and stressed the "peaceful nature" of the revolution.

The council's change in viewpoint comes a week after it announced it was deepening cooperation with Turkish-based armed rebels, the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The FSA, an armed group made up of defectors and volunteers fighting Syria's regular forces, has previously said it could topple the regime if a safe zone was established within the country.

The Muslim Brotherhood, a prominent member of the SNC, has also publicly welcomed the possibility of a Turkish intervention into the crisis.

The SNC's latest demand for a buffer zone and no-fly zone suggests the council has acquiesced to the preferences of the FSA and the Muslim Brotherhood, although world powers have yet to show much enthusiasm for a Libya-style intervention.

France rejects Qatari proposal to send troops

France – Syria's former colonial power – poured cold water on a Qatari proposal to deploy Arab troops to Syria, rejecting it as unfeasible.

"In the present regional context we are not working towards such a scenario," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in an interview published on Friday by the regional daily Ouest-France.

"On the contrary, we are talking to the opposition," he added.

But President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted that France would not stand silent as the violence continues.

"We cannot accept the ferocious repression by the Syrian leadership of its people, a repression that has led the entire country into chaos, and a chaos that will help extremists of all kinds," he said.

Qatar, the chair of the Arab League panel steering the observer mission, proposed the deployment of troops this week, drawing a furious rejection from the Syrian government.

HRW calls for UN sanctions

Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined the SNC in urging the Arab League to transfer the matter to the UN, stating that there had been no reprieve in Assad's crackdown on a 10-month old uprising that the UN says has claimed at least 5,000 lives.

"The Arab League should make its monitors' report public to address increasing concerns that its monitoring mission is being manipulated by the Syrian authorities," said HRW's Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson.

"Only a transparent assessment of the monitoring mission can determine whether the monitors should stay in the country."

The observers have been deployed since December 26 to monitor compliance with an agreement under which Damascus undertook to protect civilians, withdraw troops from population centers, free detainees, and open negotiations with the opposition.

But HRW charged that their presence had failed to rein in the government's crackdown. It cited activists as saying security forces had killed 506 civilians since the mission's launch and detained a further 490 as of Wednesday.

"The Arab League should publicly recognize that Syria has not respected the League's plan and work with the Security Council to increase pressure on the authorities and effectively curtail the use of fire power," Whitson said.

Activists themed this week's protests "Prisoners of the Revolution," in reference to the alleged tens of thousands of people arrested since protests first erupted last March.

A pro-Assad rally was also held today in Damascus, according to Syria's official news agency, SANA.

Sanctions cost Syria

US and EU sanctions imposed on Syrian oil exports have made a significant impact on Syria's economy, costing the country US$2 billion, Syria's Oil Minister Sufian Alao said on Thursday.

"We have suffered important losses as a result of our inability to export crude oil and petroleum products," Alao told a Damascus news conference.

"The shortfall and losses from September 1 until now add up to more than $2 billion," he said.

European Union states, which bought most of Syria's approximately 130,000 barrels per day of oil exports, imposed sanctions on Syrian oil on September 2, following a similar decision by the United States.

Alao said Syria had previously used revenues from sales of crude oil to "secure the Syrian public's oil requirements", but that these domestic fuel needs were now being funded by the treasury and banks.

He described the Western sanctions as unfair, illegal and "aiming to inflict as much damage as possible on the Syrian people."

Alao also said "terrorist" attacks on oil and gas pipelines and other energy infrastructure targets had killed 21 workers, disrupted supplies and caused damage estimated at US$34 million.

The Syrian regime claims it is fighting a "terrorist" insurrection that has cost the lives of at least 2,000 security personnel.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)

Comments

Have HRW EVER called for sanctions against Israel? Of course, when Zionists mass-murder and torture Arabs it is not big deal for HRW.

HRW is but a lapdog for imperialism and whitewasher of Zionism. They do not really give a damn about Syrians. They just are helping their imperialist masters to get rid of regime that is not 100% lackey of Zionism.

By the way, have HRW also called for sanctions against Saudi Arabia and Bahrain? of course not, because they both are obedient lackeys of USA imperialism and for their service got a cart blanc to suppress dissent against their dictator regimes, including murder and torture.

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