Last Updated: Fri Feb 03, 2012 07:43 am (KSA) 04:43 am (GMT)

Jordan withdraws its monitors from Syria mission as U.N. resolution is still redrafted

A Syrian woman living in Jordan shouts slogans during a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad. The protest commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Hama massacre Syria's President Bashar al-Assad's father carried out to crush an uprising. (Reuters)
A Syrian woman living in Jordan shouts slogans during a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad. The protest commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Hama massacre Syria's President Bashar al-Assad's father carried out to crush an uprising. (Reuters)

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said on Thursday that Jordan had withdrawn its monitors from the Arab League mission to Syria, saying the decision was taken several days ago when the work of all monitors was suspended, as the U.N. draft resolution on Syria was still being amended to overcome Russia’s opposition at the Security Council.

“There is no mission and we withdrew in conformity with the Arab League decision,” Judeh told Reuters.

The Arab League said on Saturday it had suspended its mission in Syria due to rising violence, but has yet to formally declare the mission over. However, Gulf states had withdrawn their monitors last week, saying the team could not stop the violence -- which Assad blames on foreign-backed militants.

Jordan, which has a long border with Syria, had accepted the Arab League peace plan for Syria, which calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down in favor of a unity government. But it fears antagonizing Assad and also is concerned that instability might spill over its frontier, according to Reuters.

King Abdullah of Jordan has also said his country opposed foreign intervention in his northern neighbor.

The Arab League suspended its month-old mission in Syria because of worsening violence, a move Damascus said was an attempt to encourage foreign intervention.

U.N. ambassadors this week are trying to overcome Russia’s opposition to a draft resolution at the Security Council calling for Assad to surrender power. Moscow says it would veto the draft because it believes it opens the way for eventual international military action.

Amended draft resolution

One of the most important amendments on the draft resolution on Syria is the cancelling of the part that addresses the halt of weapons transfer to Syria, Al Arabiya correspondent in New York says.

The new draft, obtained by Al Arabiya, fully supports the intention to resolve the crisis peacefully without any foreign military interference. It also supports the suggestion that Moscow should host the negotiations between the Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government with the consultation of the Arab League.

The new draft also includes introducing a new part stressing the commitment of the Syrian regime to apply reforms.

But diplomats hinted in New York on Wednesday that a compromise to overcome Russia’s objections was possible.

“We have made some progress today,” Britain’s U.N. ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after a three-hour meeting of council members, according to AFP.

Russia’s envoy Vitaly Churkin also said there was a much better understanding of what needed to be done to reach a consensus. “I think it was a pretty good session,” he said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Russia had a “less negative” attitude towards the resolution and a vote could take place “perhaps” next week.

The draft resolution, introduced by Morocco, calls for the formation of a unity government leading to “transparent and free elections,” rather than for Assad to step down as proposed in an Arab League plan.

A new draft was expected to be prepared following Wednesday’s talks and submitted to Council members later Thursday for new discussions, diplomats said.

The diplomatic wrangling is taking place amid warnings that Syria was slowly heading to civil war as the largely peaceful revolt that began in March increasingly takes on a sectarian tone and moves closer to the capital.

No halt to Russian arms exports

In Moscow, a top defense ministry official said Russia will not halt its arms exports to Syria despite the violence as there are no sanctions restricting such deliveries.

“As of today there are no restrictions on the delivery of weapons and we must fulfill our obligations” said Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, quoted by Russian news agencies. “And this what we are doing.”

Moscow has been one of Syria’s most powerful allies -- along with Iran -- as Syria tries to crush the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

Moscow’s stance is motivated in part by its strategic and defense ties, including weapons sales, with Syria. But Russia also rejects what it sees as a world order dominated by the U.S. Last month, Russia reportedly signed a $550-million deal to sell combat jets to Syria.

As part of efforts to resolve the crisis, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, quoted by daily Radikal, said Ankara could give asylum to Assad’s family. “It would of course be considered if such a request were made,” he said.

The number of dead has mounted in recent weeks with the central cities of Homs and Hama suffering heavy losses.

Wiam Wahhab, a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician, met Tuesday with Assad in Damascus.

“I found him relaxed and sure. He is confident in the Russian position,” Wahhab told the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar in an interview published Thursday.

Wahhab said Assad told him he will end the uprising, because “the cost of chaos is much worse than the cost of decisiveness.”

Marking anniversary of Hama massacre

Syrian security forces fanned out in Hama on Thursday as protesters splashed red paint symbolizing blood in the streets to mark the 30th anniversary of a notorious massacre carried out by President Assad’s father and predecessor, The Associated Press reported.

The Hama massacre of 1982, which leveled entire neighborhoods and killed thousands of people, has become a rallying cry for the Syrian uprising that began nearly 11 months ago in the hopes of ending four decades of the Assad family rule.

Hundreds of troops and security forces were in Hama on Thursday, closing off public squares and setting up checkpoints.

“There is a checkpoint every 100 meters,” said Ahmed Jimejmi, a Hama resident.

Activists painted two streets in Hama red to symbolize blood, and threw red dye in the waters of Hama's famous and ancient water wheels.

Graffiti on the walls read: “Hafez died, and Hama didn't. Bashar will die, and Hama won’t.”

Assad’s father, Hafez, ordered the scorched-earth assault on Hama 30 years ago to put down an uprising against his rule. Amnesty International has claimed that 10,000-25,000 were killed, though conflicting figures exist and the Syrian government has never made an official estimate.

For the next two decades, until his death, Hafez Assad ruled uncontested and the massacre was seared into the minds of Syrians.

Now, as the country faces a far larger revolt against Bashar Assad, the U.N. estimates more than 5,400 people have been killed in the government crackdown.

Syrian dissident killed

A Syrian dissident was killed by security forces before his body was thrown off the rooftop of his home in front of his wife and children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday.

The Britain-based monitoring group said the incident took place on Wednesday in the town of al-Maadamiyeh, located on the outskirts of Damascus.

“Security forces launched a raid on the home of militant Nasser Mohammed Said Sghayer, 30,” it said in a statement. “Fearing arrest, he sought refuge on the roof of his house and security forces threatened to arrest his two children if he did not surrender.”

It added that when he failed to heed their call, troops rushed to the roof and opened fire, killing him on the spot.

“They then threw his body from the roof in front of his wife and children,” the Observatory said.

It said Sghayer had served four months in prison and had been released last week. His father has been behind bars for seven months.

The Observatory called for an independent inquiry into his death.

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