BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's top opposition leader called on the Arab League Sunday to bring the U.N. into the effort to stop the regime's bloody crackdown on dissent as security forces pressed ahead with raids and arrests and killed at least seven more people.
Burhan Ghalioun, the Paris-based leader of the Syrian National Council, made the plea as Arab League officials were setting up teams of foreign monitors as part of their plan aimed at ending nine months of turmoil that the U.N. says has killed more than 5,000 people.
Opposition groups say the Arab League is not strong enough to resolve the crisis, which is escalating beyond mass demonstrations into armed clashes between military defectors and security forces and a double suicide bombing that shook Damascus on Friday.
"I call upon the Arab League to ask the Security Council to adopt its plan in order to increase possibilities of its success and avoid giving the regime an opportunity not to carry out its obligations," Ghalioun said in a televised speech marking Christmas. The opposition council "holds the international community to its responsibilities and asks them to use all available means to put an end to the tragedies experienced by the Syrian people," he added.
"The barbaric massacre must stop now," Ghalioun said.
The Arab League has begun sending observers into Syria to monitor compliance with its plan to end to the crackdown on political opponents. President Bashar Assad agreed to the League plan only after it warned that it could turn to the U.N. Security Council to help stop the violence.
The plan requires the government to remove its security forces and heavy weapons from city streets, start talks with opposition leaders and allow human rights workers and journalists into the country.
The opposition has accused Assad of agreeing to the plan only to buy time and forestall more international sanctions and condemnation.
Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, head of the Arab League observer team, traveled to Damascus late Saturday after meeting with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby to discuss arrangements of the mission. More monitors are expected to arrive Monday.
On Sunday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees activist groups said troops shelled the town of Juraithi in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, killing one person. They added that security forces killed three others in the village of Kouriyeh, also in Deir el-Zour.
The groups also reported that parts of the restive central city of Homs was bombed Saturday, killing at least three people and wounding dozens.
The two groups also blamed the regime for the assassination of a former member of Assad's ruling Baath party in Homs Ghazi Zoaib and his wife Saturday night. The groups said Zoaib had recently expressed support of the opposition.
The Syrian government has long contended that the turmoil in Syria this year is not an uprising by reform-seekers but the work of terrorists and foreign-backed armed gangs.
Syria blamed al-Qaida for sending two suicide car bombs that blew up in Damascus Friday, killing 44 and wounding dozens more. Opponents of Assad suggested the regime itself might have been responsible.