CAIRO — The Arab League is likely to extend the organization's observer mission in Syria, after several nations that had been opposed to renewing the mandate changed their position in recent days, two League officials said Friday.
Foreign ministers for the 22-member pan-Arab body were set to meet Sunday in Cairo to discuss the future of a one-month observer mission aimed at halting violence in Syria, which expired on Thursday.
Two senior officials in the League said the discussions are leaning toward keeping the mission in place because the time is not right for "escalation" and the international community is not yet ready for intervention in Syria. They agreed to talk about the discussions ahead of the Sunday meeting on condition of anonymity.
Activists have said that the Arab observers have failed to curb the bloodshed. Many have called for the dispatch of foreign troops to create safe zones for dissidents, or even a more wide-ranging military mission similar to the air campaign which helped Libyan rebels bring down dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year.
Qatar, a harsh critic of the Syrian crackdown on protesters, called last week for the dispatch of Arab troops to the country, where 10 months of unrest and crackdown have more than 5,400 people dead, according to the U.N.
The League officials however said even countries favoring an "international solution" are supportive of keeping the observer mission, because the time is not right for international escalation.
Syria has said it "absolutely rejects" any plans to send Arab troops into the country, while Russia Wednesday threatened to block any U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force.
One official disputed that the League mission had failed. He said the 150 observers have helped to "break the barrier of fear," especially in and around the capital Damascus. Some Arab League officials have said that the ministers meeting on Sunday may decide to double that number to 300 observers.
The Syrian opposition meanwhile called for demonstrations Friday in support of thousands of detainees they say are still in prison, despite a general amnesty declared this week.