THE Arab League faced calls from its own parliament to withdraw observers from Syria yesterday amid claims that the bloc's increasingly chaotic monitoring mission was playing into the hands of President Bashar al-Assad.
The 88-member Arab parliament effectively declared that it had lost confidence in the much-vaunted mission, saying the observers' presence had encouraged the Assad regime in its campaign of violence against civilian protesters.
"For this to be happening in the presence of Arab monitors has roused the anger of Arab people and negates the purpose of sending a fact-finding mission," Ali al-Salem al-Debkas, the parliament's chairman, said.
"This is giving the Syrian regime an Arab cover for continuing its inhumane actions under the eyes and ears of the Arab League."
Mr Assad's reluctant acceptance of regional observers last month was hailed as a breakthrough to end nine months of violence that has seen more than 5,000 civilian deaths since Syria's uprising began in March last year.
The mission was charged with verifying the Syrian government's compliance with a regional peace plan designed to end the bloodshed, but from the outset it has been beset by controversy.
Much of the anger has been directed at Gen Mustafa al-Dabi, the chief observer, whose perceived sympathy for the regime has frustrated the Syrian opposition.
A Sudanese intelligence officer who has been linked to war crimes in Darfur, Gen Dabi, was at the centre of a fresh row yesterday after he contradicted one of his observers who said he had witnessed government snipers in action against protesters in the southern city of Deraa.
"We saw snipers in the town, we saw them with our own eyes," the unidentified observer was recorded as saying.
Bizarrely, Gen Dabi insisted his colleague was speaking hypothetically. "This man said that if he saw those snipers, he (would) report immediately," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)