‘Don’t let Syria bamboozle Arab League monitors’

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe expressed concern on Tuesday about the conditions under which Arab League peace monitors were working in Syria, saying it was crucial the Syrian authorities be prevented from hoodwinking them.

“The conditions under which this observer mission is able to operate at the moment need to be clarified. Do they truly have genuinely free access to information? We are waiting for the report they will produce in the coming days for more clarity,” he said.

“It’s vital that the truth be established, and ultimately that the regime is unable to hoodwink the observers on the ground,” Juppe said.

The head of the Arab League has said its peace monitors are helping to ease a violent crackdown on anti-government protests in Syria, but they have also urged President Bashar al-Assad’s government to carry out a peace plan in full.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said on Monday that Syria’s military had now withdrawn from residential areas to the outskirts of the cities, but that gunfire continued and snipers were still a threat.

Juppe said the Arab League involvement was very welcome and that he had confidence in its determination, but that the United Nations could not stand idly by as thousands died. Russia continued to block UN progress on the issue, he said.

“We’re now at more than 5 000 dead,” Juppe said. “The UN Security Council cannot remain silent. The savage repression is totally clear, the regime has no real future and that’s why it’s up to the international community to speak out.”

Assad is struggling to crush nearly 10 months of protests against his rule and avoid being toppled by “Arab Spring” uprisings like those in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

The United Nations says more than 5 000 people have been killed in Syria, mostly unarmed civilians. The Arab League has called for Assad to pull troops and tanks from the streets, free detainees and talk to his opponents. — Reuters