US supports full access in Syria for Arab League observers
The United States on Wednesday called for the Arab League observer mission in Syria to have full access for its investigation into the government's clampdown on civilian protesters, dpa reported.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner also urged patience for human rights activists who charge that the mission, now in its second day of visits to conflict areas, has been ineffective.
"We do have confidence in the mission," Toner said. "It was just day one. It was one small area of Homs. We need to let this mission get up and running," he said.
In a historic first for the Arab League, its monitors on Tuesday started their observations in the Syrian city of Homs, which has been at the heart of anti-government protests. Activists alleged that around 60 people were killed there by Army shelling since Monday.
Monitors continued the mission on Wednesday in the dissident Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs.
Toner said it was important that the monitors "have access to all areas in order to carry out a full investigation" and observe as "many of the protests as possible."
France criticized the Arab observer mission, saying it had been unable to stop the bloodshed. Activists said 19 people including three children were killed on Wednesday alone by Syrian security forces in Hama.
The French Foreign Ministry added in a statement that the mission's brief stop in Homs the day before meant that observers had not been able to properly evaluate the situation there.
The US is hoping for an end to the violence through the mission and wants the Syrian government to recall its forces from urban areas and release political prisoners, Toner emphasized.
International media as well as the monitors must be given "unfettered" access, he said.
Barring that, he indicated the US would pursue action at the UN Security Council against Syria. Russia and China have blocked a Security Council resolution, but the UN General Assembly earlier this month voted overwhelmingly to condemn Syria's harsh crackdown of civilian protesters, which the United Nations says has resulted in at least 5,000 deaths over the past 10 months.
Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization, earlier charged the government of President Bashar al-Assad with purposely misleading the Arab League delegation and transferring detainees to hide them from the monitors.
But Sudanese General Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi, who heads the mission, told the London-based Al Hayat newspaper that the Syrian authorities had been cooperative.