Syria to sign peace initiative - report


Syria will sign an Arab peace initiative today to admit foreign monitors, a Syrian diplomat was quoted as saying by Egypt's state news agency, after weeks of Syrian stalling over the plan led to Arab states imposing sanctions.

Qatar, which has been leading efforts at the League to press Syria to agree to the deal, said yesterday it had information President Bashar al-Assad would soon sign it.

The initiative calls for withdrawing the army from towns, freeing thousands of political prisoners, starting dialogue with the opposition and letting monitors into the country.

A senior official at the Cairo-based League said the pan-Arab body had not been officially informed as of today morning that Damascus would sign the protocol.

Egypt's Mena news agency said the Syrian diplomat did not say who would sign the deal on Syria's behalf. Cairo airport sources said Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in Cairo today.

League chief Nabil Elaraby was due to hold a news conference at about 1pm, which officials said was to announce "important" news. They did not give details.

The Arab League has suspended Syria's membership and announced sanctions over Assad's refusal so far to sign the deal. Arab ministers are set to meet later this week and could decide to submit their plan to the UN Security Council, making it a potential basis for wider international action.

Armed resistance has emerged in the last two months in Syria, alongside a peaceful protest movement that began in March inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.

Loyalist forces, including a pro-Assad militia, have reportedly taken scores of casualties from insurgents in the last few weeks, especially in the northwestern province of Idlib near Turkey and in the central region of Homs.