Head of Arab mission to Syria denies disarray

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 12, 2012 10:09 AM
Head of Arab mission to Syria denies disarray

CAIRO (Reuters) - The head of Arab League monitors in Syria dismissed as untrue Thursday the comments of an Algerian observer who quit in disgust over continued violence in the country and slammed the mission as a "farce."

Anwar Malek left the monitoring team this week and then criticized the Arab mission in media interviews, saying the Syrian government was still carrying out killings, detention and torture of those involved in a 10-month-old uprising.

"General Mohammed al-Dabi, the head of the Arab monitors' mission to Damascus, has confirmed that what the monitor Anwar Malek said to a satellite channel does not relate to the truth in any way," the Arab League said in a statement.

"Since he was assigned to the Homs team, Malek did not leave the hotel for six days and did not go out with the rest of the team into the field giving the excuse that he was sick," the statement said, adding that Malek had asked to travel to Paris for treatment but then left suddenly on his personal account.

The Arab League monitoring mission, now about 165 strong, began work on December 26. Its task is to verify whether Syria is complying with an agreement to halt a military crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad in which the United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed.

Malek's resignation increased a sense of disarray in a mission already criticized for inefficiency and some of whose members came under attack this week from both Assad supporters and protesters.

Another monitor also told Reuters Wednesday he was hoping to leave Syria because the mission was ineffectual. The monitor, who declined to be named, said he had travelled to the central city of Homs with both Dabi and Malek.

Anwar Malek said the days when he did not leave his room followed his Facebook posting Friday criticizing the mission, after which he suspended his work.

"They say I am closely related to Burhan Ghalioun," he said of the head of Syria's opposition Transitional National Council. "I have no relation to Burhan Ghalioun and I never met him in my life."

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Dominic Evans; Editing by Mark Heinrich)