Syria ‘responds positively’ to Arab plan


Syria said on Monday it will allow observers into the country as part of an Arab League plan to end months of deadly unrest, in a turnabout which could stave off crippling regional sanctions, while Syrian security forces shot dead five civilians in Homs province.
“The Syrian government responded positively to the signing of the protocol” on the dispatch of observers “based on the Syrian understanding of this cooperation,” foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi told reporters. Foreign Minister Walid Muallem had sent a message to the Arab League to that effect late on Sunday night, as an Arab League deadline was set to expire, paving the way for the signing of the protocol, Makdisi said.
Damascus had until now refused to sign the protocol, arguing that the text contained wording that undermined Syrian sovereignty. The international community wants monitors to be deployed in Syria to keep a check on forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who have been accused by the United Nations of rights abuses. Syria has asked in its message to the Arab League for “minor changes which do not touch on the substance of the protocol and for clarifications that are not linked to the nature of the mission,” Makdisi said.
“We asked them for the names and nationalities of the observers” he said. Syria insists on the terms of Article 8 of the Arab League’s charter which stipulates that member states must respect the systems of government in other member states and avoid any action to change them, Makdisi said. The deployment of an observer mission is part of the League’s proposal to end the violence in Syria, which is raging on despite offers of political reforms by Assad. Iraq said it is opposed to sanctions on Syria, a dominant trading partner, while Jordan said on Monday it does not want to impose trade sanctions and a flight ban on Damascus because they will harm Jordanian interests.
SYRIA ARRESTS ACTIVIST: Syrian authorities on Monday arrested blogger Razan Ghazzawi at the border with Jordan as she headed to Amman to take part in a workshop on press freedom in the Arab world, activists said. The Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression called for the release of Ghazzawi, who was to represent the group at the forum, and for the authorities to halt “the repression of bloggers and journalists” in Syria.
IRAQI JIHADISTS CALL FOR AID, ARMS FOR SYRIA OPPOSITION: Members of Iraqi online jihadist forums have called for fighters and arms to be sent to aid Syrians opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, who have faced a brutal crackdown since March.
Sunni jihadist sites such as Honein and Ansar al-Mujahedeen display numerous comments and articles critical of Assad’s regime, and videos of bloody events they say took place in Syria. The Syrian regime is largely made up of minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while protesters demanding reforms are largely from its Sunni majority. Syrian army deserters have also formed the Free Syrian Army which is inflicting growing losses on regular forces.
“Our jihad (holy war), my brothers in Iraq or Syria is for one purpose, which is raising the banner of monotheism, the banner of Allahu akbar (God is greatest).” “The duty of jihad,” Al-Mansur wrote, “is coming to you again.”
The stances of those posting on the forums is at odds with that of Iraq’s Shiite-led government, which has so far shied away from punitive measures against Assad’s regime, abstaining from both a vote to suspend Syria from the Arab League, and another to impose sanctions against Syria. Analysts have said that the Iraqi government’s response to the situation in Syria has confessional overtones and may boost Sunni-Shiite sectarian divisions here.