01/04/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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Syrian crisis: Armed opposition threatens civil war

Frustration is building over Arab League observers mission and its inability to stop the violence. This Saturday, League foreign ministers will meet. Head of Free Syrian Army Riad al-Asaad said his group would “escalate its operations” and make a “transformative shift” in the struggle.
Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Despite the presence of Arab League observers, bloodshed continues in Syria. Army deserters are said to have killed 18 members of the Security Forces in Jassem, in the southern part of the country. Anti-government sources claim that troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed 17 people.

On Saturday, Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Cairo to discuss an interim report by observers in Syria on the application of the agreement signed by the League and the Syrian government. It will be an emergency meeting and a decision will be taken as to whether to continue the mission in view of the ongoing violence. Since outside journalists are not allowed in the country, casualty figures cannot be independently verified.

In an interview, Riad al-Asaad, head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), threatened to escalate the armed struggle if the Arab League mission fails to stop the violence. The FSA includes defectors from the regular Syrian armed forces and has been involved in open fighting with troops loyal to Assad.

"If we feel they are still not serious in a few days, or at most within a week, we will take a decision which will surprise the regime and the whole world," Colonel Riad al-Asaad (pictured). "Since they [the monitors] entered, we had many more martyrs,” he added.

Asaad defected from the Syrian air force in July and has led the FSA from southern Turkey. The strength of his forces is unknown, but according to media estimates, it has several thousands of men in its ranks.

Asaad said that FSA ceased operations when monitors arrived. Today, he noted, that at present, it is probable that his group would “escalate its operations” and make a “transformative shift” in the struggle, hoping to gain the “support of the Syrian people.”

However, the head of Syria’s main opposition group said that the mission of the Arab League observers “remains useful”.

“We believe that this mission remains useful even if it does not lead to the implementation of the Arab plan,” Syrian National Council (SNC) leader Burhan Ghalioun said after talks with Portugal’s foreign minister. “It remains politically, morally and psychologically useful,” he added.

"We believe that this step is necessary to show what the situation is like and to produce proof that what is happening in Syria is a revolution of a peaceful population that wants its government to fulfil its desire of freedom."
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