January 21, 2012 / 4:38 PM / 8 years ago

Opposition urges Arab League to refer Syria to UN

CAIRO (Reuters) - The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has formally asked the Arab League to refer the Syrian crisis to the U.N. Security Council, after Arab observers failed to end the bloodshed, an opposition spokeswoman said.

Syrian opposition groups have called in the past for the case to be referred to the Security Council but had not made a formal request to the 22-member League, whose foreign ministers are due to discuss the Syrian crisis Sunday.

“We think that when the Arab League refers the case to the United Nations and to the Security Council the situation will change,” SNC spokeswoman Basma ElKadamny told reporters in Cairo Saturday.

Asked about Chinese and Russian opposition to any Security Council involvement, she said: “When the Arab League transfers the case to the United Nations and affirms to the world that the Syrian regime is not cooperating with the Arab League, all countries will have to take new positions.”

The comments come a day before the head of a team of Arab observers in Syria presents his findings to Arab ministers who must decide whether to extend, withdraw or beef up the monitoring mission, which arrived in Syria in late December and has come under criticism for failing to end the violence.

The international community has shown little appetite for a Libya-style military intervention in Syria and even a Syrian opposition member said Saturday that the Qatari idea of dispatching Arab troops to help restore calm was “unrealistic.”

In Cairo ahead of the Arab League meeting, SNC chief Burhan Ghalioun told reporters that the observers were not properly equipped to give a fair assessment of Syria’s compliance with an Arab peace plan and that his group would reject any findings that fell short of the Syrian people’s aspirations.

“The conditions that the mission operated under and the situation surrounding its work and the limited means it was offered did not equip it to present an objective report on the Syrian situation,” Ghalioun said after meeting Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.

“If the report, for these reasons, turns out not be objective then the Syrian National Council will reject it.”

Elaraby met several Arab officials Saturday and a source close to the League said Arab ministers could decide both to extend the monitoring mission for another month and to offer it additional support in the form of U.N. or military experts.

“The ministers could agree Sunday to send members from the United Nations or some military experts with the monitors and such a solution will please everyone, both those for and against imposing harsher sanctions on the Syrian regime,” the source added.

Suggestions to send in U.N. experts to support the Arab observers made little headway at the last meeting earlier this month and Damascus has said that it would accept an extension in the observer mission but not an expansion in its scope.

Reporting by Ayman Samir, Yasmine Saleh and Lin Noueihed; writing by Lin Noueihed; editing by Andrew Roche

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