Arab League: Syria to end crackdown

Nov. 2, 2011 at 4:08 PM
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CAIRO, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The Arab League announced in Cairo Wednesday Syria agreed to end its deadly crackdown on anti-government forces, even as activists said 21 more people died.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani said Syrian President Bashar Assad's government affirmed it would "stop all violence from any side in order to protect the Syrian citizens."

CNN said Syrian leaders have agreed to give league observers and international journalists freedom of movement in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London said at least 21 people were killed in Homs province Wednesday, CNN said. The group said eight were fatally shot by security forces and pro-government gunmen in the city of Homs and 11 others were killed in the town of Kfarhala al-Hula by armed men who support the Syrian regime. The U.S. news network said it could not verify the report independently.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported Yousef Ahmad, Syria's representative to the Arab League, said Wednesday said the agreement stemmed from what it called the principles of the Syrian stance of rejecting violence, prohibiting the shedding of the Syrian blood, adopting national dialogue and supporting reform.

Ahmad said the Syrian leadership has realized from the beginning the scale of and the reasons behind the crisis, and had dealt with it while recognizing the legitimate and rightful demands of the Syrian people, SANA said.

Ahmad said Syria is depending on its Arab neighbors to assume their pan-Arab responsibilities and support the implementation of the agreement, including putting an end to what he called foreign political and media instigation, SANA said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem had gone over the agreement during talks in Doha Monday with bin Jaber al-Thani, SANA said.

Citing Arab diplomats, Voice of America reported the plan calls for Assad, who is president of the Arab League Council, the league's principal institution, to withdraw security forces from the streets, stop violence by pro-government forces against civilians, release prisoners detained since February, begin talks with the Syrian opposition in Cairo and let Arab monitors enter the country.

The Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, based in London, had quoted diplomatic sources as saying Syria did not want to talk with opposition leaders outside Damascus, its capital, because meeting in Cairo or another foreign location would give the opposition too much credibility.

Most Syrian opposition figures have rejected dialogue with the Assad regime as long as it continues its brutal crackdown on activists and protesters.

The United Nations says more than 3,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began with protests Jan. 26 and escalated into an uprising March 15, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled three Arab leaders.

Syrian authorities have blamed arms smugglers, "terrorists" and "armed gangs" for killing civilians and more than 1,100 security-force members.

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