Arab League Rules Out Recall of Syria Monitors

Arab League's assistant chief tells reporters in Cairo: No Arab country has talked about the necessity of withdrawing the observers.

The Arab League ruled out considering a withdrawal of its widely criticized peace observers from Syria, ahead of a meeting Sunday in Cairo to assess the performance of the mission.

Led by Qatar, an Arab League committee on Sunday was to review a report about the mission, which was dispatched two weeks ago to Syria to verify the Damascus government's compliance with a plan to end a violent crackdown on dissent.

Arab League observers - Reuters - 30122011

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According to leaked excerpts, the report cites continued violence by the Syrian government on pro-democracy protesters, Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera reported.

The report mentions that Syrian authorities hold detainees in unknown places, Al Jazeera said.

The Arab League's assistant chief, Adnan Eissa, said Saturday it was unlikely for the meeting to discuss the possibility of recalling the observers any time soon.

"No Arab country has talked about the necessity of withdrawing the observers," he told reporters in Cairo.

He said that the Arab countries were favoring more support for the observers and better equipping them to do their job.

The observer mission reached 163 members on Saturday, after 10 more colleagues from Jordan arrived, according to Eissa.

Bassima Kadamani, spokeswoman for the opposition Syrian National Council, was quoted Saturday by Arab media as saying: "The Arab League should admit that its observer mission has failed and should hand over the task to the United Nations."

Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim, who heads the Arab League committee on Syria, said that Damascus was not implementing the organization's deal, which was aimed at ending 10 months of bloodshed.

"With deep regrets, the news is not good," bin Jassim told Al Jazeera.

Syria on Saturday vowed an "iron fist" response to a bombing that killed 26 people the day before in the capital, Damascus.

"We will hit back with an iron fist at anyone who tries to tamper with the security of the country or its citizens," Interior Minister Ibrahim Shaar said on state television.

A bomber blew up himself Friday in the Maidan district of central Damascus, wounding more than 60, the government said.

Thousands of mourners attended funerals of the victims on Saturday, witnesses said.
"May God protect Syria and its sovereignty," the mourners chanted as they walked in a funeral procession in central Damascus, the witnesses said.

State television showed the coffins of the victims being carried through the streets of Damascus amid tight security, and the wailing of grieving women and men echoed across the district where the blast took place.

The opposition has accused the regime of President Bashar Assad of "staging" the bombing, the second in two weeks, to win international sympathy.