Arab League monitors will say on Sunday that Syria is failing to honour a promise to end its crackdown on peaceful protests, Al Jazeera reported, as Arab states met to discuss how to strengthen the mission.
An initial report from the monitors will say violence by Syrian security forces against anti-government protesters continues and the military has failed to withdraw from cities, the Qatar-based pan-Arab satellite news channel said, citing what it said were leaked sections of the report.
The Syrian government has only partially complied with its pledge to release political prisoners, with citizens complaining that some are still being detained in unknown locations, Al Jazeera cited the report as saying.
Sunday's meeting, attended by Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Qatar and officials from Saudi Arabia and other states, will examine what monitors have found since starting work on December 26 and discuss ways for them to work more independently of Syrian authorities, League sources said.
The presence of Saudi and Egyptian representatives gives weight to the committee's decisions because other League states tend to follow their lead.
But despite pressure from Qatar, which chairs the committee on Syria, and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, some are playing down the chances of a harsh rebuke of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it could burn bridges with his government.
We don't expect today's meeting will come up with something that would fully condemn one party, because this will mean an end to the relationship between the Arab League and this party, a League source said.
The meeting will also discuss whether to ask the United Nations to help the mission, which has failed to end the 10-month crackdown on unrest in which thousands of people have been killed, according to U.N. figures.
About 50 of Assad's opponents gathered outside the Cairo hotel where the meeting was taking place, singing: The people want the president dead and Down, down with Bashar. Some waved caricatures of Assad that likened him to the vampire Dracula, sucking the lifeblood from the Syrian people.
The Syrian people are not hoping for anything from this meeting, said opposition activist Mohamed Ma'moun el-Hamsy. This meeting deals with a dead protocol that the Syrian regime has not and will not implement one word of.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said on Friday there had been no end to the killing in Syria and the monitors could not stay in the country to waste time.
Assad's failure to abide by an Arab League peace plan saw Syria suspended from the 22-member regional body in November and the country now faces economic sanctions.
The Arab plan also called for Assad's government to permit peaceful protests, start dialogue with political opponents and allow foreign media to travel freely to the country. Syria agreed, but the pledge remains unfulfilled.
SUPPORT FOR MONITORS
Recalling the monitors might send a signal that Arab efforts to bring one of their own to heel have failed and be taken as a green light for foreign military intervention, which many Arab governments fiercely oppose, like that which helped topple Libya's Muammar Gaddafi last year.
League officials said the ministers were likely to reaffirm support for the monitors, resisting calls to end what Syrian pro-democracy campaigners say is a toothless mission that buys more time for Assad to suppress opponents.
Eleven Syrian soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in clashes with army defectors on Sunday in the village of Basr al-Harir in the southern province of Deraa, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It did not report any casualties among the army defectors.
Qatar has proposed inviting U.N. technicians and human rights experts to bolster the monitoring effort. A League source said it might ask that U.N. staff helping the mission be Arabs.
Syria says it is providing the monitors with all they need and has urged them to show objectivity and professionalism.
Speaking on the eve of the meeting, the head of the monitoring operations room at the League's headquarters in Cairo, Adnan al-Khudeir, said the withdrawal of the monitors was not on the agenda.
Ten Jordanian monitors arrived in Damascus on Saturday, Khudeir said, bringing to 153 the number involved.
The initial report from the monitors would acknowledge the Syrian government's release of 3,484 detainees and make a request to the Syrian regime for full cooperation with the monitors, a League source said.
It would also call on the Syrian opposition to help monitors by providing names and locations of people detained by the government, the source said.
The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the uprising against Assad. The Free Syrian Army, an armed opposition force composed mainly of army deserters, has joined the revolt. The Syrian government says terrorists have killed 2,000 members of the security forces during the uprising.
(Additional reporting Ayman Samir and Omar Fahmy in Cairo and Alistair Lyon in Beirut; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Janet Lawrence)