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Arab League Considers Extension of Syria Mission - ABC News

Written By Ivan Kolev on Thursday, January 19, 2012 | 10:13 PM

Arab League foreign ministers will consider extending the League's observer mission in Syria in a meeting next week, officials said Thursday.

The one-month mission expired Thursday, but Adnan al-Khudeir, head of Cairo operations room that handles reports by the monitors, told The Associated Press that observers will remain in Syria until a decision is made at Sunday's meeting in Cairo.

Another Arab League official said the mission could be extended for another month.

Rejecting charges that the observers have been ineffective in reducing violence, he said extending the mission would help the opposition more than the regime.

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In this Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 photo, anti-Syrian regime protesters chant slogans and flash the victory sign as they march during a demonstration at the mountain resort town of Zabadani, Syria, near the Lebanese border. As diplomats debated, opposition activists said Syrian troops shelled the mountain resort town of Zabadani, which has come under the control of army defectors. Syria's powerful ally Russia said Wednesday it would block any attempt by the West to secure U.N. support for the use of force against the regime in Damascus, which is under intense international pressure to end its deadly crackdown on dissent. (AP Photo) Close

"The killings are less, the protests increase," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made. "The mission's presence offers assurance to the people because the observers can spot any violations. There is a conviction even among Syria opponents that the extension is better than withdrawal."

More than 5,400 people have been killed since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted last March.

The uprising has turned increasingly militarized and chaotic as more frustrated regime opponents and army defectors arm themselves and fight back against government forces. The capital has seen three suicide bombings since late December which the government blamed on terrorist extremists.

According to al-Khudeir, the Sunday meeting chaired by the Qatari foreign minister will discuss a report by the head of the mission Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi who is arriving in Cairo from Syria on Thursday.

The monitors will remain in 17 different places around Syria until the Arab League makes a final decision, he says.

"If there is a decision to extend the mission of the observers, we are ready to send more monitors after training them in three days," he said, adding that the total number of monitors might reach 300.

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