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Arab League Ministers Discuss Ways to Boost Syria Observer Mission

Arab League monitors check Al-Sabil area, in Daraa, Syria, January 3, 2012.

Arab League monitors check Al-Sabil area, in Daraa, Syria, January 3, 2012.

Arab League foreign ministers have met in Cairo to discuss ways of strengthening an Arab delegation trying to monitor the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on a 10-month opposition uprising.

Diplomats say the Arab foreign ministers who met Sunday in the Egyptian capital were considering whether to ask the United Nations to provide technicians and trainers to help the Arab League observer team in Syria.

Syrian opposition activists and rights groups have criticized the observers, saying their presence in Syria has failed to secure any easing of the crackdown by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Some critics have called on the League to withdraw the observers, who began their mission on December 26.

Arab League officials said pulling out the monitors was not on the agenda of the Cairo meeting, chaired by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who also serves as foreign minister. The Arab ministers were due to receive an initial report on the observer team's progress from its Sudanese chief, General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi.

More than 50 opponents of President Assad rallied outside the Cairo hotel where the Arab ministers met, chanting anti-Assad slogans. They want an end to his 11-year autocratic rule.

The United Nations says violence related to Mr. Assad's suppression of the rebellion has killed at least 5,000 people. Damascus accuses armed terrorists of driving the revolt and killing 2,000 security personnel.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says army defectors who joined the uprising killed 11 pro-Assad troops and wounded 20 others on Sunday, during a battle in the southern province of Daraa. The British-based rights group also says one civilian was killed in a raid by Syrian security forces in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

There was no independent confirmation of the casualties because Syria bars most foreign journalists from operating freely in the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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