Arab monitors "doing fine" in Syria: Sudan

KHARTOUM Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:58pm EST

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan played down criticism of the Arab League's monitoring mission in Syria Wednesday, saying the performance of the team led by a Sudanese general was improving and it should get more support.

The Arab League sent observers into Syria last month to see whether Damascus was respecting a peace plan it accepted on November 2 to end a 10-month crackdown on protesters. Hundreds of killings on both sides have been reported since then.

Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said the monitoring mission had been doing well, despite starting with a limited number of observers.

"Day by day, they are achieving more and more," he told Reuters Wednesday, dismissing critics' assertions that the observers have only provided President Bashar al-Assad with diplomatic cover and more time to crush his opponents.

"You know they began with a limited number of monitors, and gradually they began to expand throughout the areas where there are some problems, and they are doing fine."

The Arab League's committee on Syria is headed by Qatar and is made up of the foreign ministers of Egypt, Oman, Algeria and Sudan, alongside League head Nabil Elaraby.

The ministers are due to consider their next step at the weekend, but are split over how to handle Syria, as is the U.N. Security Council, which has failed to adopt any position.

"We will be listening to a report from those monitors on Saturday, after two days. Hopefully the report will be positive, and more support should be given to the monitors," Karti said.

"They need more support by adding more monitors" and making more facilities available, he said.

The appointment of Sudanese General Mohammed al-Dabi to lead the team alarmed human rights activists, who say the government committed atrocities in Sudan's conflict-torn Darfur region on the general's watch.

Khartoum denies the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 civilians and army defectors have been killed by Assad's forces during the uprising. Damascus says it is fighting Islamist militants steered from abroad and blames them for the death of more than 2,000 members of its security forces.

(Reporting By Ulf Laessing and Alexander Dziadosz)

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