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France says Arab League Syria observers should return to Homs


France claims that Arab League observers in Syria did not stay long enough in the troubled city of Homs to find out what was going on there and called on Damascus to allow them to return. The mission’s leader described the visit as good.


The Arab League observers visited Homs on Tuesday.

Syrian police used tear gas and some live rounds to disperse about 70,000 people who flooded the city’s streets during the visit, activists say.

"The brevity of their visit did not allow them to understand the reality of the situation in Homs,” French foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said in Paris Wednesday. “The Arab League observers must be allowed to return without delay to this martyr city, to travel everywhere in it freely and to have the necessary contact with the public."

But the mission leader, Sudanese intelligence officer General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said that the visit had been “good” and that he was returning there on Wednesday.

Other comments on the observers’ visit Wednesday included:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Damascus to “fully cooperate” with the observers and “create work conditions that are as comfortable and free as possible”;
  • US State Department official Mark Toner called on the observers “to be intrepid in their search for the truth of what's happening on the ground”;
  • The US-based group Human Rights Watch said they should “insist on full access to all Syrian sites used for detention” and accused Bashar al-Assad’s regime of moving “perhaps hundreds” of prisoners to military sites to hide them from the monitors.

Monitors were also due to visit the southern province of Daraa, the northern provinces of Hama and Idlib and an area around Damascus on Wednesday and Thursday.

Syria freed 755 prisoners on Wednesday, saying that they had been involved in anti-Assad unrest but had “no blood on their hands”.

Army deserters killed at least four Syrian soldiers in Daraa and a civilian was shot dead in Homs on Wednesday, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

Three Lebanese shot by Syrian troops on the Lebanese side of an illegal crossing point were buried on Wednesday. A fourth was wounded.

There is no proof of the presence of Al Qaeda near the frontier, declared Lebanese Prime Minister Najb Mikati Wednesday, after pro-Syrian Defence Minister Fayez Ghosn claimed that the terror network was smuggling arms and fighters into Syria from the frontier village of Aarsal.

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