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Syrian opposition council leaders travel to Cairo to push for U.N. action

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The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has said it was sending a delegation to Cairo on Friday to convince the Arab League to lift its hand on the crisis in Syria and refer the issue to the United Nations.

The Istanbul-based council said in a statement that its leader, Burhan Ghalioun, and a several council members will meet with Arab League chief Nabil al-Araby and Arab foreign ministers to try convince them to refer the Syrian crisis to the United Nations, the statement said.

The council would also seek a tough Arab League report on the violence in Syria following the end of an Arab monitoring mission. The statement said the council would request that Arab League expose and condemn acts of “genocide” and “war crimes in Syria.

The head of the monitoring team was still working on his report and would not arrive at the League’s Cairo headquarters until Saturday, the day before Arab foreign ministers are due to weigh their next move on Syria, a League source said.

The Arab League monitoring mandate was expiring on Thursday night, with the foreign ministers at odds over how to respond to the turmoil in which thousands of people have been killed.

“They are in a big mess,” a source close to the League said. “They are running out of options.”

The opposition council seeks a U.N. decision to establish a secured area in Syria, in similar to the situation in Libya, followed by a no-fly zone and even possible military strikes against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
An armed insurgency is taking hold in some areas, hardening what began 10 months ago as a mostly peaceful struggle against President Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian rule.

Residents of Zabadani said on Thursday troops and tanks that had besieged the insurgent-controlled town had pulled back after a deal to end days of fighting, according to an opposition leader.

Dozens of armored vehicles that had encircled Zabadani, a hill resort near the Lebanese border, withdrew to garrisons 8 km (5 miles) away, Kamal al-Labwani told Reuters.

The leader of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood said world powers should pile diplomatic pressure on Assad and set up a no-fly zone and “safe zones” to help the opposition.

“The international community should ... should fully isolate this regime, pull out their ambassadors and expel the regime’s ambassadors,” Mohammad Shaqfa told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The U.N. Security Council is split over Syria, with Russia declaring it will work with China to block any move to authorize military intervention.

Western powers have acknowledged that a Libya-style campaign in Syria would be fraught with danger, but want the council at least to condemn Assad’s repression and impose sanctions.