Many monitors in the Arab League's troubled mission to Syria are angry over what they see as its failure to halt attacks on protesters and more are likely to pull out in protest, an Algerian former monitor told Reuters on Thursday.
Anwar Malek, who withdrew from the monitoring team this week, said three colleagues had already left Syria because they believed their two-week-old operation had done nothing to stem President Bashar al-Assad's violent crackdown on dissent.
We were giving them cover to carry out the most repugnant actions, worse than what was taking place before the monitors came, he said in a telephone interview.
The only factor preventing larger numbers from pulling out was that most were under government orders, he said, adding that many appeared to put the priorities of their own countries ahead of those of the Arab team.
Malek said Sudanese monitors sent reports to their own government before delivering them to the mission's operation centre in Damascus, while Iraqi colleagues were reluctant to visit opposition strongholds.
Monitors could not do anything if they were taking orders from their country, he said, adding that most members of the team were either intelligence officers or diplomats.
He said an Egyptian, a Moroccan legal expert and a Djiboutian aid worker from the monitoring team had left the country. This could not immediately be confirmed.
Many shared his disillusionment over the mission, he said. I cannot specify a number, but many. When you talk to them their anger is clear.
There will be other people pulling out ... I don't rule out that some countries will withdraw their members if things continue this way, said Malek, who was speaking from Qatar.
The Arab League said Malek's criticism of the mission does not relate to the truth in any way and he had not left his hotel for six days, saying he was sick.
Syria says it is providing all necessary support for the monitors and that it is committed to their security after some of them came under attack by a crowd earlier this week, halting their work for at least two days.
But Malek said the Assad government had been exploiting them for propaganda. I resigned from the monitoring mission when it reached a dead end and I became certain that I was serving the Syrian regime, he said.
This mission is dead. It has failed already, and we should now look at using other means, he said, suggesting that foreign intervention may be necessary.
I want and hope that the regime will leave peacefully. But from what I saw, they will only go by force.
His departure was the latest setback to an operation already criticised for inefficiency and whose leader, Sudanese General Mohammed al-Dabi, alarmed human rights groups because of his role in Sudan's Darfur conflict.
Since he resigned, Malek has himself faced accusations - which he denies - that he was closely linked to the leader of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun.
He denied that a Facebook page indicating that he was offered $500,000 (326,000 pounds) by a Syrian official to make positive comments about the regime was his.
Malek has written a book called Secrets of the Shi'ites and Terrorism in Algeria about Iranian attempts to back militants in his home country. But he denied that he had a preconceived agenda when he went to Syria, which is allied to Shi'ite Iran and whose Alawite rulers are from an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Absolutely not... I met a wounded Alawite girl, a small girl in hospital. I cried next to her, he said. I sympathise with the wounded, the victims, even if they are the devil.
(Additional reporting by Regan Doherty in Doha, Editing by Alistair Lyon and Mark Heinrich)