Syria accepts Arab monitors as dozens more killed
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Last Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2011, 09:29
Cairo: Syria agreed Tuesday to allow Arab observers to monitor a deal to end a nine-month protest crackdown, in a move dismissed by the opposition as a ploy and followed by even more reports of bloodshed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said between 60 and 70 army deserters were gunned down as they fled their military posts in northwestern Idlib province, while another 19 civilians were killed elsewhere.

The reports came as the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning human rights in Syria -- with 133 countries in favour, 11 against and 43 abstentions.

After weeks of prevarication, President Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime signed a deal at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo to accept observers to monitor a plan to end the bloodshed.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said an advance team of observers from Arab countries would head to Damascus within 72 hours, and the mission would last for a renewable initial period of a month.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem welcomed the deal and expressed hope the bloc would lift sweeping sanctions on Damascus.

But Burhan Ghaliun, head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), accused Assad's regime of "manoeuvring" to avoid threatened UN Security Council action. More than 5,000 people have been killed in the crackdown on nationwide democracy protests that erupted in mid-March, according to the UN's latest estimate issued a week ago.

"Signing the protocol is the start of cooperation with the Arab League and we will welcome the observers' mission from the Arab League," Muallem told a news conference in Damascus.

The deal would not impinge on Syrian sovereignty, he said, after the League agreed to 70 per cent of changes sought by Damascus.

"Within two or three days, an advance team of observers... will be sent," Arabi told a joint news conference in Cairo with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Maqdad, who signed the accord.

"The Arab League has a list of 100 names of observers from Arab, non-governmental organisations and representatives of Arab countries... (and) this number will be increased at a later date."

The plan also calls for a complete halt to the violence, releasing detainees and the military's complete withdrawal from towns and residential zones. Syria must also hold talks with the opposition under League auspices.


First Published: Tuesday, December 20, 2011, 09:29

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