Syria signals crackdown will continue, Gulf pulls monitors
Syria vowed on Tuesday to continue its crackdown on armed insurgents as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states withdrew from an Arab League peace mission in protest at Damascus's failure to stop 10 months of violence, DPA reported.
"It is the duty of the Syrian government to take what it sees as necessary measures to deal with those armed groups that spread chaos," Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told a press conference, signalling defiance despite mounting international pressure.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, said in a statement it was withdrawing from the mission sent to Syria last month to monitor the government's compliance with an Arab League peace plan.
"The decision was made after careful and thorough monitoring of events in Syria and the conviction by the GCC that the bloodshed and the killing of innocent people there is continuing," the six-nation GCC said in a statement.
The GCC urged the UN Security Council to take "all the necessary measures" to force Syria to implement the Arab League peace plan.
"This is their business," al-Moallem said. "Maybe the Saudi brothers in the mission do not want to see the realities on the ground, which don't satisfy their plots."
Al-Moallem said a call at the weekend by the Arab League for President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his vice president was a violation of Syria sovereignty. He also brushed off the threat to refer Syria to the UN Security Council, where Russia and China in October vetoed a resolution threatening al-Assad with sanctions.
"Some Arab countries killed the Arab League's role and headed to the United Nations to internationalize the Syrian crisis," al-Moallem said.
Al-Moallem said Syria was still considering whether to accept an Arab League decision to extend the mission's mandate by another month. The Syrian opposition has rejected a report submitted by the mission as being too lenient on the regime.
Amnesty International on Tuesday called for intervention by the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to address the human rights concerns raised by the Arab League.
"The true measure of the observer mission's success will be whether its findings can successfully spur the international community to address the serious ongoing human rights concerns in Syria," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The al-Assad regime has blamed the protests that erupted in March on armed gangs.
Activists in Syria told dpa that 42 people were killed in violence across Syria on Tuesday, mainly in the restive provinces of Hama and Homs.
The United Nations says more than 5,400 people have been killed in 10 months of unrest. The Syrian government says it has lost more than 2,000 security personnel in the violence.