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Syria ready to let monitors stay, rebel commander calls for help from UN

Damascus opposes broadening the scope of the Arab League observer mission, the source at the League said, but would accept a one-month extension of its mandate which expires on Thursday.

By Erika SolomonReuters / January 17, 2012

This image from amateur video made available by Shaam News Network on Jan. 13, purports to show a rally in support of the Free Syrian Army in Daraa, Syria.

Shaam News Network via APTN/AP

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BEIRUT

Syria is ready to let Arab monitors extend their mission beyond this week, an Arab source said on Tuesday, but a rebel army chief said they should go as they had failed to curb a crackdown on protesters seeking President Bashar al-Assad's overthrow.

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Damascus opposes broadening the scope of the Arab League observer mission, the source at the League said, but would accept a one-month extension of its mandate which expires on Thursday.

However, Riad al-Asaad, the Turkish-based commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, called for international intervention to replace the observer team which is monitoring Syria's implementation of a League plan to end 10 months of bloodshed.

U.N. officials say more than 5,000 people have been killed in the violence across Syria and the government says 2,000 members of its security forces have died.

The Arab League must decide whether to withdraw its 165 monitors or keep them in Syria, even though they are expected to report that Damascus has not fully implemented a peace plan agreed on Nov. 2. Arab foreign ministers are set to discuss the team's future on Jan. 22.

"The outcome of the contacts that have taken place over the past week between the Arab Leagueand Syria have affirmed that Syria will not reject the renewal of the Arab monitoring mission for another month ... if the Arab foreign ministers call for this at the coming meeting," the source said.

The Arab plan required Syria to halt the bloodshed, withdraw troops from cities, free detainees, provide access for the monitors and the media and open talks with opposition forces.

"FAILED MONITORS"

Rebel commander Asaad opposed any extension of the mandate.

"The Arab League and their monitors failed in their mission and though we respect and appreciate our Arab brothers for their efforts, we think they are incapable of improving conditions in Syria or resisting this regime," he told Reuters.

"For that reason we call on them to turn the issue over to the U.N. Security Council and we ask that the international community intervene because they are more capable of protecting Syrians at this stage than our Arab brothers," Asaad said.

The source said Beijing and Moscow had urged President Assad to accept an extension of the monitoring mission as a way to avert an escalation at the international level.

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