Syria: Dozens of army deserters killed

Dec. 20, 2011 at 7:43 AM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The Syrian government says it will execute anyone who takes part in terrorist acts or distributes weapons, Syrian state television said Tuesday.

The announcement, the latest escalation against a months-long uprising, came as two opposition groups claimed more than 100 people were killed Monday, CNN reported.

If verified, that would be the single deadliest known day of protests against President Bashar Assad. Verification of events in Syria is difficult because of restrictions on foreign journalists.

Activist groups said more than 70 army deserters trying to leave their bases and join anti-government protests were shot and killed by Syrian troops in Idlib province, the BBC reported.

Earlier Monday, Syrian officials agreed to allow Arab League monitors into the country after the league accepted several conditions, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said.

The United Nations approved a non-binding resolution condemning the Syrian government for its brutal actions against the protesters. The resolution, passed 133-11 with 43 abstentions, calls for an immediate end to human rights abuses and demands Syrian leaders implement the Arab League plan.

The United Nations estimates at least 5,000 demonstrators have died since the protests began in March.

Word of the deaths of army deserters came after Syria and the Arab League signed the agreement to try to bring calm to the country, the BBC said.

"We want to emerge from this crisis and build a safe, modern Syria -- a Syria that will be a model of democracy," Muallem said. "The signing of the protocol is the beginning of cooperation between us and the Arab League and we will welcome monitors."

The observers, expected to arrive soon, would be "free" as they moved across the country under the "protection of the Syrian government," the minister said, adding monitors wouldn't be allowed to visit sensitive military sites.

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