Syria signs Arab League plan, minister says

Arab League members have been putting pressure on Syria to accept an observer mission in Syria

Story highlights

  • An opposition leader calls on the international community to enforce a buffer zone
  • A Syrian opposition group reports 48 people killed Monday
  • Foreign Minister Walid Moallem says the government wants a political solution
  • The Arab League was threatening to call for U.N. intervention in Syria
Syria has signed an Arab League proposal aimed at ending violence between government forces and protesters, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem announced, as an opposition group reported nearly 50 deaths in one day.
Monday's announcement by Moallem came just days after the Cairo-based group of Arab nations warned it could ask the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the restive country, but Moallem insisted repeatedly that it was Syria's decision to sign the protocol.
"We want a political solution. I do not want the killings to go on," he said.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition group, reported that 48 protesters including a woman and two children were killed Monday. It did not give a source for its numbers, but said most of the deaths happened in the southern city of Daraa and in Homs, just north of the Lebanese border.
The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have died since an uprising against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad began in mid-March.
Moallem said the country needed a political solution involving "national reconciliation and dialogue," but accused "some factions in the opposition, particularly outside Syria," of refusing to participate in the government-backed "national dialogue."
Syrian opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun was not impressed by the signing of the agreement.
"The Syrian regime is playing games and want to buy time. We are quite surprised that the Arab League is allowing this to take place," the head of the Syrian National Council said in comments on Orient TV from Tunisia.
Separately, Ghalioun urged the international community to enforce a buffer zone to protect civilians.
Council members meeting in Tunisia declined to say whether they would support the use of foreign military force to enforce such a zone, but stressed their belief that international intervention is necessary.
"This regime has proven time and time again that it is a regime built on lies and force," Ghalioun told CNN. "We need a safety zone to protect and prevent efforts by the regime to transform the crisis into a civil conflict."
Five Arab League ministers drafted a resolution Saturday calling for the end of violence and approving an observer mission in Syria.
The resolution was hammered out in Doha, Qatar, the same day government security forces killed 41 people in a crackdown on anti-regime elements, an activist group said.
Eight of the dead were members of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel force of military defectors.
World powers have denounced the government's activity, and have said they are are looking for ways to rein in violence and urgently contain the threat of civil war, reflected in the emergence of the armed defector force.
The Arab League devised and promoted the plan to send observers to Syria weeks ago, but the government in Damascus raised objections and called for caveats to the resolution.
The league -- which expelled Syria last month -- had accused the Assad regime of procrastinating in dealing with the proposal.
Sanctions against Syria have been initiated by the United States, the European Union, Turkey and the Arab League.
The passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution would require an approval by two permanent council members -- Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, and China, both of whom have rejected tough U.N. action toward Syria.