01/17/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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UN to discuss Syria crisis and Arab League monitor training

The UN Security Council is set to vet a Russian proposal on Syria, criticised by the West for equally blaming government and opposition. The Arab League will discuss Syria in light of Qatar emir’s proposal to send Arab troops. Two Syrian members of parliament go over to the opposition.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The United Nations will train Arab League observers monitoring the situation in Syria. The country’s opposition had accused them of being unable to judge whether the authorities were implementing the accords that they had agreed to in order to end the ten-month bloody crackdown.

This is first small step by the United Nations in the Syrian crisis. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had recently said that the situation had “reached an unacceptable point”, and that the Security Council had to act.

As calls for the UN to intervene increase, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), made up of Syrian soldiers opposed to Assad, urged the Arab League to “transfer the case of Syria to the UN Security Council”.

At present, the 15-member body is getting ready to discuss a Russian proposal, which has to overcome Western scepticism over Moscow’s position.

Back in October, Russia (and China) had stopped a resolution condemning Syria’s violent crackdown. In its recent proposal, Russia blames both Syrian security forces and the opposition for the violence, calling on both sides to stop the bloodshed. Until now, UN sources have said that government forces are mostly to blame for the death of least 5,000 people. Now, western amendments will test Russian attitudes.

In the meantime, the Arab League continues to be in thick of things. Arab foreign ministers will meet in a few days in Cairo, and might have to discuss a proposal made by the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, to send Arab troops to Syria.

In Syria itself, after President Bashar al-Assad announced an amnesty for demonstrators, the opposition welcomed the defection of two Syrian members of parliament to join its ranks: Nawaf al-Bashir, a tribal leader, and Imad Ghalioun, a member of the Syrian parliament's budget committee.

On the ground, the rising death toll is a sign that the situation is looking more and more like a civil war. Human rights activists have reported 21 people killed yesterday by government forces but also five soldiers killed in clashes with the FSA, which now claims to have 40,00 0 armed men.

State-run news agency SANA also reported that an "armed terrorist group" shot dead Brigadier-General Mohammed Abdulhamid al-Awad near Damascus.
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