Observers from Gulf Arab states left Syria on Wednesday after their governments said they were certain the bloodshed and killing of innocents would continue, and the Arab League pursued U.N. support for a plan to end President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
But their colleagues in Damascus pledged to pursue the League's monitoring mission, now extended until February 23, to verify Syria's compliance with an earlier Arab peace plan.
The departure of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries will not have an impact on the mission's work. We are all professionals here and we can do the job, said a senior Arab monitor, who asked not to be named.
We were around 170 or so and now with them leaving we are around 120, the monitor said. We need more monitors of course and more will come soon to replace those who left.
Monitors from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain left the Syrian capital and those from other Gulf states were expected to follow suit soon.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who heads the League's committee on Syria, wrote jointly to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon setting out the plan for a political solution in Syria.
The letter asks for a joint meeting between them in the U.N. headquarters to inform the Security Council about developments and obtain the support of the Council for this plan, a League statement said.
Several diplomats at the United Nations said France and Britain were working with Qatar and other Arab delegations on a new draft resolution supporting the Arab League plan.
The U.N. Security Council must support the Arab League's courageous decisions which are trying to end the repression and violence in Syria and find a solution to the political crisis, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
Our aim is to get a resolution approved.
He said the talks should enable the Security Council to support and enforce the Arab plan by giving it the necessary international guarantees for it to be implemented.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country, which holds a veto in the U.N. Security Council, remained opposed to sanctions on Syria and reiterated its opposition to military intervention.
Syrian opposition groups have accused the observer mission, which began on December 26, of giving Assad diplomatic cover to pursue a crackdown on protesters and rebels in which more than 5,000 people have been killed since March, by a U.N. tally.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven people were killed on Wednesday, including one killed by soldiers surrounding the Bab Qabli district in the central city of Hama and a woman who died after a shell landed on her house near the town of Qusair, 10 km from the Lebanese border.
It also said army deserters clashed with soldiers in the rebellious province of Idlib, disabling three armoured vehicles and killing or wounding six soldiers.
The government says it is fighting foreign-backed Islamist terrorists who have killed 2,000 soldiers and police. State news agency SANA said 30 more were buried in the last two days.
The revolt in Syria was inspired by other uprisings that have toppled three autocratic Arab leaders over the past year and the bloodletting has battered Assad's standing in the world.
The Arab League has suspended Syria's membership and Iran, at loggerheads with Western powers over its disputed nuclear ambitions, is among Assad's few remaining allies.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem wrote to the Arab League accepting an extension of the monitoring mission, even as he scornfully rejected the 22-member body's call for Assad to hand power to his deputy and allow a new unity government to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.
TO THE MOON
Definitely the solution in Syria is not the solution suggested by the Arab League, which we have rejected. They have abandoned their role as the Arab League and we no longer want Arab solutions to the crisis, Moualem declared on Tuesday.
Heading to the Security Council will be the third stage in their plan, and the only thing left is the last step of internationalisation, he told a news conference in Damascus.
They can head to New York or to the moon. So long as we are not paying for their tickets it is none of our concern.
Moualem poured contempt on the League's call for Assad to hand power to a unity government to defuse the violence.
He said that while half the universe is against us, Syria's long-time ally and arms supplier Russia, which wields a veto on the Security Council, would never permit foreign intervention. That is a red line for them.
Britain, France and the United States chastised Moscow on Tuesday for continuing to arm Syria despite the upheaval there.
The United States and their European allies have called for a U.N. arms embargo and other sanctions against Syria, but Russia vehemently opposes Security Council action.
(Additional reporting by Edmund Blair and Ayman Samir in Cairo, John Irish in Paris and Dominic Evans in Beirut; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)