12/29/2011, 00.00
SYRIA
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Arab League sends 26 additional “observers” to Syria

More deaths and demonstrations are recorded across the country. Amid difficulties, international observers carry out their mission. France and Russia say foreign observers should be allowed to move freely. China and the United States call for patience and trust in the mission.
Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Arab League has decided to send 26 observers to Damascus to join the 50 already present in the country as part of the deal worked out with Syrian authorities to end the ongoing unrest. Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi will received Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), in his Cairo office. Reports from Hama, central Syria, say that six people were killed in demonstrations. In Deraa, southern Syria, where protests first broke out against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, dissidents soldiers are said to have shot four regular army troops, a British-based human rights group said (pictured, dissident soldiers in Deraa shooting at army troops).

Controversy and pressures are mounting over the Arab League observer mission. The French Foreign Ministry on Wednesday insisted that observers "must be allowed to return without delay to this martyr city, to travel everywhere in it freely and to have the necessary contact with the public".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also urged Syria to give observers maximum freedom as they go about their mission. "We constantly work with the Syrian leadership calling on it to fully cooperate with observers from the Arab League and to create work conditions that are as comfortable and free as possible," Lavrov said.

China has welcomed the Arab League observer mission to conduct objective investigations in Syria, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said at a press conference. Beijing hopes to see concerted efforts from all relevant sides in the substantial implementation of the observers protocol in order to create conditions for the proper resolution of the Syrian crisis, he added.

However, some of the families that lost members in the violence refused to meet the observers because they were accompanied by military officers. Today, the latter travelled to Homs, Idlib, and Deraa.

Washington has urged patience. “It was just Day One,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “We need to let this mission get up and running. Let them do their job and then let them give their judgement.”

Assad has warned against foreign intervention, which he says could spark a regional crisis. Assad says Syria is fighting foreign-backed Islamist terrorists who have killed more than 2,000 of its security forces.

The United Nations have said that more than 5,000 people have died since the start of the demonstrations.

Casualty figures and other information from Syria are hard to verify since most foreign media are banned from reporting.
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