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Observer mission in Syria begins to unravel, pushing forward UN option

As the Arab League observer mission in Syria teeters amid accusations from members it is a farce, pressure may build for Syria to be referred to the UN Security Council.

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"The military gear is still present even in the mosques. We asked that military equipment be withdrawn from the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq mosque in Deraa and until today they have not withdrawn."

A UN official told the Security Council earlier this week that an estimated 400 people had been killed in Syria since the mission arrived, BBC reports. The US representative to the UN, Susan Rice, said the figure showed an acceleration in the killing of demonstrators. According to the UN, more than 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March.

Mr. Malek told Al Jazeera that the government had "gained a lot of time to help it implement its plan" to squash the uprising by allowing the observers into the country, BBC reports.

 "The snipers are everywhere shooting at civilians. People are being kidnapped. Prisoners are being tortured and none were released. … The mission was a farce and the observers have been fooled," he added. "The regime orchestrated it and fabricated most of what we saw to stop the Arab League from taking action against the regime."

He said that security forces had not withdrawn their tanks from the streets - as mandated by the Arab League peace initiative - but had just hidden them and then brought them back out after the observers had left.

He also said imprisoned protesters who were shown by state television being freed last month as part of an amnesty were actually people who had been detained at random four or five days earlier.

Eleven observers were injuried in the city of Latakia on Jan. 9, according to a separate BBC report. The Arab League, which blamed the attack on protesters but said Syrian authorities should have protected the mission, has delayed sending any more observers in as a result.

Yesterday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the mission had failed and that it should not continue indefinitely, Bloomberg reports. Its mandate expires on Jan. 19 and it's unclear whether observers will remain in the country or return. 

A French television reporter, Gilles Jacquier, was killed Wednesday in Homs during a government-authorized trip. He is the first Western journalist to have been killed covering the conflict.

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