Syria Signs Arab League Deal Calling for Outside Monitors, Defectors Reported Killed

Posted December 19th, 2011 at 2:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Syria has agreed to an Arab League plan to allow observers into the country, as rights activists say security forces killed dozens of army deserters in the country's northwest.

Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, signed the deal Monday in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, following nine months of violence that the United Nations estimates has killed at least 5,000 people.

The Arab League wants to send observers to verify if the government will honor a deal to stop its security forces from attacking anti-government protesters.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership and imposed diplomatic and economic sanctions on Damascus last month to pressure it into accepting the peace initiative. Syria had demanded changes to the plan, saying the proposed observer mission would violate its sovereignty.

Syria's closest ally, Iran, said Monday it backed President Bashar al-Assad's decision to implement the Arab League plan.

Meanwhile, rights activists say security forces attacked army deserters fleeing their base in Idlib province Monday, killing dozens. One of the survivors told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that between 60 and 70 were killed. The reports could not be independently verified as Syria does not allow foreign media to work freely in the country

Syrian authorities say they have released a Syrian-American blogger on bail, two weeks after her arrest. The media rights group where blogger Razan Ghazzawi worked says authorities released her late Sunday.

Syrian authorities arrested her as she headed to Jordan for a conference on press freedoms and charged her with spreading false information and stirring dissent. If found guilty, she could face up to 15 years in jail.

At the U.N. Monday, the General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning Syria for the human rights situation amid the nation's unrest.

Earlier at the U.N., China said it supports a new draft U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the violence in Syria. The proposal introduced by Russia last week condemns violence by all parties, but stops short of calling for sanctions.

Western powers welcomed Russia's proposal, but said it is not strong enough. Both Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution in October that contained possible references to sanctions.