Qatari emir incites Arabs to take action against Damascus

Sheikh Hamad has become one of Assad's most vocal critics

DAMASCUS - Qatar favours sending Arab forces into Syria to stop the deadly 10-month crackdown on dissent as the Arab League said on Saturday it will reassess its heavily criticised observer mission there.
The emir of Qatar, in an interview with US network CBS to be broadcast on Sunday, says he favours dispatching Arab troops to Syria to "stop the killing" that the United Nations says has claimed more than 5,000 lives since March.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani's interview with "60 Minutes" is the first public call by an Arab leader for an Arab military presence in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's regime is pressing ahead with its crackdown.
"For such a situation to stop the killing ... some troops should go to stop the killing," Sheikh Hamad replied, when asked whether he supports Arab intervention.
The comments by the emir, whose wealthy nation once enjoyed cordial ties with Damascus, comes with the Egypt-based Arab League set to reassess the work of its Syria monitoring mission at a meeting later this month.
"There is an overall reassessment of the work of the observer mission which we will discuss at the next ministerial meeting to be held in Cairo on Saturday, January 21," League chief Nabil al-Arabi said in Oman.
"There has been partial progress until now but there is daily bloodshed in Syria that the League aims to end," he added.
"The Arab League general secretariat is now examining whether it would be beneficial for the mission to pursue its work in light of the continuing violence," Arabi was quoted as saying by Egypt's official MENA news agency.
"Maybe things are a bit calmer but (the violence) continues. The human conscience cannot accept that any person gets killed."
The interview with the Qatari leader, excerpts of which were sent to AFP by CBS ahead of the broadcast, comes amid increasing concern that the League's mission to monitor conditions on the ground in Syria was failing.
The influential Sheikh Hamad has become one of Assad's most vocal critics.
In August, he described the Syrian regime's heavy-handed use of force against protesters as "fruitless," and urged serious reforms. Doha then withdrew its ambassador from Damascus.
The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite television channel has also come under strong criticism by Syria for its coverage of the uprising.
Meanwhile, a US official said late on Friday that Washington has reason to believe Iran is supplying security-related equipment "including munitions" to Syria in its crackdown.
The accusation comes after the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards' Quds force, Qasem Soleimani, visited Damascus earlier this month.
The United States has long suspected that Iran has been aiding Syria's purge as Assad tries to avoid the fate of other Arab dictators felled by the Arab Spring uprisings.
Another official said Soleimani's visit marks the strongest indication yet of direct cooperation between the allies.
On the political front, Britain has also sharply criticised Russia for refusing to support UN Security Council moves against Assad.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in Saudi Arabia that vetoing a Security Council resolution against Damascus amounted to standing by and watching the "appalling bloodshed."
In October, Russia and China vetoed a Western draft resolution that would have condemned Assad's regime. Moscow later circulated an alternative that would have blamed both sides.
Cameron told Al-Arabiya television on Friday that Britain stands ready to take a fresh Syria resolution to the Security Council.
He said it would dare "others that if they want to veto that resolution to try to explain why they are willing to stand by and watch such appalling bloodshed by someone who has turned into such an appalling dictator."
Efforts to isolate the Assad government were boosted by rebel plans to form a high military council headed by a top defector that will oversee military operations against the embattled regime.
General Mustafa Ahmad al-Sheikh, the most senior commander to defect from the Syrian army, will announce the council's formation later on Saturday in Turkey, where he sought refuge 12 days ago, his media adviser said.
Sheikh, 54, was in charge of security in northern Syria before defecting. In a statement, he said he had deserted because he was sickened by the ruthlessness of Assad's regime and all the killings.
"This council, headed by Sheikh, will oversee military operations in conjunction with the Free Syrian Army (FSA)," Fahad Almasri said.
"It will also help organise defections within the army and will be in contact with officers in the regular army to encourage large-scale rather than individual defections."
Formed from deserters from the regular army, the FSA says it has some 40,000 fighters.
Meanwhile, violence in the flashpoint city of Homs reportedly claimed two lives on Saturday. A 13-year-old child was killed by gunfire at a checkpoint, and 27-year-old man shot by snipers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Separately, the official SANA news agency said three people were injured when a train carrying fuel to a power station in the northwest province of Idlib was hit by a booby trap "laid by terrorists."