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Syria signs Arab League deal to allow observers in

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria agreed Monday to an Arab League plan to send foreign monitors, bowing to growing international pressure to end its bloody crackdown on a nine-month uprising. However the opposition saw the deal as a stalling tactic, especially given reports by activists that more than 100 people were killed on the same day.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said in Cairo that an initial mission headed by one of his assistants will go to Syria within a day or two to discuss plans for 500 observers to eventually deploy around the country.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem rejected accusations the regime was trying to stall, even though it delayed the monitoring agreement for weeks.

The Arab League plan calls for removing Syrian forces and heavy weapons from city streets, starting talks with opposition leaders, and allowing human rights workers and journalists into the country, along with observers from member countries.

President Bashar Assad's regime accepted the monitors after Arab leaders warned they would turn to the U.N. Security Council to try to end the crackdown that the United Nations says has killed at least 5,000 people since March. Syria also had come under pressure from Russia.

Activists said security forces killed up to 70 army defectors Monday as they were deserting their military posts near the Turkish border. At least 30 other people died in other violence across the country, the activists said.

Burhan Ghalioun, the leader of Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, said the signing was "worthless" in light of the brutal crackdown daily. "The Syrian regime is maneuvering and wants to buy time," he said in Tunisia, where the group has been holding a three-day conference aimed at unifying Syria's fragmented opposition.

Syria signs Arab League deal to allow observers in 12/19/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011 10:13pm]
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