Syria accepts Arab monitors as dozens more killed

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.

PTI



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

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