Arab League 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)
AMMAN - The Arab League handed Syrian officials a plan for ending seven months of increasingly violent unrest against President Bashar Assad's rule, and Assad told Russian Television he would cooperate with the opposition.
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"We will cooperate with all political powers, both those who had existed before the crisis, and those who arose during it. We believe interacting with these powers is extremely important," Assad said in the interview on Sunday.
The United Nations says more than 3,000 people have been killed in the Syrian government's crackdown on protesters demanding political reforms and an end to Assad's rule.
Assad blames the unrest of foreign-backed armed gangs and said in the television interview there had been "hundreds of deaths among the military, police and security forces."
The Arab League committee put its plan, involving talks in Cairo between the Syrian authorities and their opponents, to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem and Bouthaina Shaaban, a political adviser to Assad, on Sunday in Qatar.
The League had previously set a two-week deadline for the start of such talks, which expired on Sunday. The committee said it hoped for a Syrian response to its plan by Monday.
"More important than a dialogue is action... This committee has given a very strong response to the recent killings," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, whose country presides over the committee, told reporters.
Syrian objections to holding a meeting regarding what they consider domestic affairs outside Syria was one of the points of disagreement between the two sides.
Opposition sources said 61 civilians and 30 soldiers had been killed in the latest clashes over the previous three days.
Opposition figures have repeatedly said Assad's offers of dialogue were not serious, and have said there has been a rise in recent weeks of mass arrests, torture, disappearances and assassinations of activists and street protest leaders.
"Whether we agree on the working paper or not we hope to receive an answer by Monday. If they approve the working paper, it will be implemented immediately," Thani said after the meeting, without giving details.
China's Middle East envoy called on the authorities on Sunday to speed up the reforms Assad has promised, saying the situation was dangerous and the bloodshed could not continue.