Arab League says Syria approves plan to end bloodshed

Plan to end violence includes prisoner release, withdrawal of security forces from streets and negotiations with opposition.

Arab League Reuters 311 (photo credit: Reuters/ Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Arab League Reuters 311
(photo credit: Reuters/ Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
CAIRO - The Arab League said on Wednesday the Syrian government had approved an Arab plan for dialogue with the opposition and steps to end seven months of bloodshed, according to a League statement released during a ministerial meeting in Cairo.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told a news conferrence after a ministerial meeting in Cairo: "We are happy to have reached this agreement and we will be even happier when it is implemented immediately."
RELATED:Erdogan voices support for 'glorious' Syrian oppositionSyria ‘pursued 2 routes to nuclear weapons’
He read a statement saying Syria had a agreed on points including a complete halt to violence, the release of prisoners, removing the military presence from cities and residential areas and allowing the Arab League and media access to report on the situation.
The Qatari minister said the Arab League would continue contacts between the Syrian government and the opposition "in preparation for a national dialogue within two weeks."
"The Arab League welcomes the Syrian government's agreement to the Arab plan," the statement said, adding that it "emphasized the need for the immediate, full and exact implementation of the articles in the plan."
"The Arab committee (overseeing the plan) is responsible for submitting periodic reports to the ministerial council of the Arab League on the progress of carrying out the plan," it said.
Assad has deployed his army and security forces to crush protests inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world. He has said they are battling Islamist militants and armed gangs.
The United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed in the bloodshed.
A Gulf state League delegate said disagreement remained over the monitoring mechanism, the venue for a dialogue -- whether Cairo or Damascus -- and the participation of foreign-based Syrian dissidents.
Syrian newspaper Al Watan carried a similar report.
Assad has said he wants dialogue. His opponents say the killing must stop first. Analysts question whether the Syrian leader would be ready to halt military action against protesters and armed opponents of his 11-year rule.
Activists said on Wednesday at least 11 villagers were killed by security forces in and around Homs in central Syria.
In an apparent response to the killing of the villagers, Syrian army deserters killed seven soldiers and eight members of the security forces and gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, an activist group said.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebel soldiers killed the soldiers in a bomb attack on a military convoy in Hama province. It said they also killed eight members of the security forces and pro-Assad gunmen in a separate attack.