Bloomberg News

Clinton Calls for End to Arab League Monitoring Mission in Syria

January 17, 2012

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria has failed to deter the government’s violence against dissidents and should end.

The league sent monitors to Syria two weeks ago to judge whether the regime was adhering to its promises to end assaults by government troops, release political prisoners and follow through on other commitments.

“So far, the regime has not done so,” Clinton said. The top U.S. diplomat added that it was “clear” that the “monitoring mission should not continue indefinitely. We cannot permit President Assad and his regime to have impunity.”

Clinton’s comments came as a top United Nations official said that Syrian security forces have persisted in deadly attacks on protesters throughout the monitors’ two-week observation mission, set to expire on Jan. 19.

About 400 people have been killed since the Arab League team arrived on Dec. 26 to monitor Syria’s implementation of an accord to end the crackdown, UN political chief Lynn Pascoe told the 15-member Security Council yesterday.

Clinton noted that 11 monitors were attacked two days ago. She said President Bashar al-Assad has only made excuses for the violence his troops are perpetrating, particularly in a speech Assad gave yesterday.

‘Only Making Excuses’

“Instead of taking responsibility, what we hear from President Assad in his chillingly cynical speech was only making excuses, blaming foreign countries, conspiracies so vast that now it includes the Syrian opposition, the international community, all international media outlets, the Arab League itself,” Clinton said.

She spoke at the State Department after a meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al Thani. The foreign minister said he was glad the Arab League had taken the initiative.

“In the history of the Arab League, this is the first time that we are sending monitors,” al-Thani said. “I could not see up till now a successful mission, frankly speaking.”

The Arab League will produce a report after the mission ends which “will be very important for us to make the right judgment,” he said. “We cannot accept to let the situation as it is in Syria, and the people killed by their own government.”

‘Iron Fist’

The Syrian president vowed yesterday to use an “iron first” to resist what he described as foreign-backed efforts to divide his country, in his fourth national address since the uprising began in March. The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have died.

At least 38 people were killed yesterday in Deir al-Zour, Homs, Qamishli, Idlib and in Hama, said the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group with members in Syria. The U.K.- based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which also has a network of activists in the country, put the death toll at 27 yesterday.

The observatory said three civilians and one army defector were killed in Hama today, while a strike was under way in Idlib over living conditions. Security forces opened fire on students rallying this morning in a suburb of the capital Damascus, it said.

Assad repeated his argument that the violence is a result of a “foreign conspiracy.” He said his priority is to restore security and that “terrorists” will be met with an “iron fist,” while denying that any orders had been given to security forces to fire on civilians.

’Irresponsible Acts’

Under an agreement with the Arab League, Syria’s government promised to withdraw military and security forces from urban areas, release political prisoners and allow observers into the country to monitor implementation of the accord.

Secretary-General Nabil el-Arabi condemned the attack on the monitors as “irresponsible acts and acts of violence” and said the Syrian government is responsible for the protection of its envoys.

Anwar Malek, an Algerian Arab League observer who resigned from his position saying he found himself serving the Syrian government’s interests, told Al Jazeera the Arab League’s monitoring mission wasn’t independent.

“What I saw was a humanitarian disaster,” Al Jazeera cited Malek as saying. “The regime is not just committing one war crime, but a series of crimes against its people,” he said.

Snipers are widespread and shoot at civilians, while people are being kidnapped and prisoners tortured, Al Jazeera cited Malek as saying. Security forces didn’t withdraw their tanks from the streets as the Syrian government claimed, but hid and then redeployed them after the observers left, he told the Doha- based news channel.

Increased Pressure

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Malek’s observations correspond to reports received by the U.S. “His concerns are absolutely consistent with the reports we’re getting,” she said in a briefing with reporters today.

In a televised speech from Istanbul yesterday, Burhan Ghalioun, the leader of the Syrian National Council, an umbrella opposition group, called on Arab governments to increase pressure on Assad and urged the Arab League to raise the Syrian situation at the UN.

The Arab League imposed sanctions on Syria on Nov. 27. Russia and China have blocked efforts by the U.S. and the European Union, which also have imposed sanctions, for the UN Security Council to condemn the crackdown.

--Editors: John Walcott, Steven Komarow

To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon at mderhally@bloomberg.net; Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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