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January 02, 2012

France Calls for Clarification of Syria Monitor Mission

France has expressed concerns about the conditions under which Arab League monitors are carrying out their mission in Syria.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday the conditions need to be "clarified," and also called on the U.N. Security Council to take action on Syria.

Juppe said the Council "cannot stay silent" and that the government of President Bashar al-Assad "has no real future."

Russia and China have blocked efforts by Western powers to use the Council to condemn the Syrian government and impose sanctions on it for continuing a bloody crackdown.

Arab League chief Nabil El Araby said Monday in Cairo that snipers and gunfire remain a threat in Syrian cities, despite the presence of League monitors.

He called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria, saying snipers are still killing people and making it difficult to distinguish who is shooting whom.

The Arab League has sent monitors to Syria to check on its compliance with a League plan for peace after the nine-month crackdown on anti-government protests. The plan requires the Syrian government to remove security forces and heavy weapons from the streets, start talks with the opposition, free political prisoners and allow monitors into the country.

El Araby said 70 monitors are in six Syrian cities, with 30 more monitors to join them soon. He said the monitors have secured the release of about 3,500 prisoners in Syria so far.

Activists say more than 150 people have been killed across Syria since the observers began their mission last week.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have died in Syria's violence since March during a crackdown on protests inspired by the Arab Spring democracy movement. Mr. Assad's government claims armed terrorists are driving the revolt.

Syrian authorities, under increasing international pressure, agreed last month to allow the Arab League monitoring mission. The deal required the government to give monitors freedom of movement through most of the country except for sensitive military sites.