Arab League: Syria Accepts Plan to Curb Crackdown

Posted November 2nd, 2011 at 8:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The Arab League says the Syrian government has accepted a plan to curtail its nearly eight-month crackdown on dissent.

The proposal demands that Syrian authorities immediately withdraw security forces from the streets, stop violence against demonstrators and release all detainees jailed since protests began – a figure estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Officials say that once Damascus takes these first steps, talks with the Syrian opposition can begin within two weeks. It is still unclear whether talks will occur in Cairo, as the plan stipulates, or in Damascus.

Opposition representatives based outside Syria said Wednesday that President Bashar al-Assad's government had lost all credibility. They said even if the opposition Syrian National Council accepts the Arab League plan, protesters and activists would reject it.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who announced the agreement, said Syria will allow international media and Arab League representatives into the country. Syria had previously restricted or banned outsiders and the international media.

Meanwhile, violence continued inside Syria with at least 31 deaths Wednesday. Activists said gunmen killed 11 factory workers in volatile Homs province and – in a separate incident – that security forces killed five civilians in and around central Homs town.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said Syrian army deserters killed 15 security forces members during two bomb attacks on convoys in Hama province.

On Friday, the 22-member league sharpened its criticism of Syria after rights activists said Syrian security forces had shot and killed dozens of anti-government protesters as part of a widening crackdown on dissent.

The United Nations says the number of people killed in the uprising has surpassed 3,000. The Syrian government says terrorists have killed hundreds of security personnel during that period.

Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gathered in the northern city of Raqqa to rally for the government. It appeared to be the latest of several state-organized rallies in support of Mr. Assad.