Syria to let in Arab monitors as deaths mount

Mon Dec 19, 2011 6:00pm EST
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By Erika Solomon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria agreed on Monday to let Arab states monitor its compliance with an Arab League peace agreement aimed at stopping violence against anti-government protesters, even as rights activists said more than 100 people had been killed during the day.

The Arab League, which has already imposed economic sanctions, had threatened to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council.

Syrian opposition leaders dismissed the agreement as a new stalling tactic by President Bashar al-Assad's government and called instead for foreign military intervention to stop Syria's crackdown on a nine-month-old pro-democracy protest movement.

Damascus said it had been urged to sign by Russia, its long-time ally and arms supplier, which has shown signs of losing patience. Moscow praised the deal as a chance for stability.

In a further sign of international pressure, the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Syria's use of force to quell protests, with Russia and China abstaining instead of voting against.

The Arab League said it was not ready to lift economic sanctions aimed at pressuring Syria to let in monitors, but that an advance delegation would reach Damascus this week.

It would prepare a mission to monitor compliance with an agreement that calls for troops to withdraw from cities where protests have been held, for political prisoners to be freed, and for a dialogue with opposition groups, most of whom are set on following the example of Egypt and others in ending decades of one-man rule.

Insisting that Syria had not been forced into submission, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said he had won several unspecified modifications before signing the deal, which initially allows in observers for one month.   Continued...