Syria last night accepted an Arab League proposal calling for it to withdraw armoured vehicles from the streets and stop violence against protesters in a bid to end the country's seven-month-old political crisis that has led to the deaths of 3,000 people.
The agreement was announced by Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim, who urged Damascus to follow through with action on the ground. Syria has continued its bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters despite international condemnation and previous promises of reform.
In the latest violence, machine-gun fire and explosions erupted inside a city at the heart of Syria's uprising as activists reported two grisly attacks that killed at least 20 people in the past 24 hours. It was not clear who was behind the attacks.
Syria agreed to withdraw all tanks and armoured vehicles from the streets, stop violence against protesters, release all political prisoners arrested during the uprising and begin a dialogue with the opposition within two weeks, according to the proposal. Syria also agreed to allow journalists, rights groups and Arab League representatives to monitor the situation in the country. All have been banned from entering one of the Arab world's most repressive regimes.
"We are happy to have reached the agreement and we'll be happier if it is carried out," Mr Bin Jassim said. "Now it is important for the Syrian side to carry out this agreement because it is what will allow the situation to quiet down and the crisis to be resolved. We hope that there will be serious follow-through, whether regarding violence and killing or regarding prisoners."
The UN says about 3,000 people have been killed since the revolt began in March. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that he supported the agreement, but noted that Mr Assad has failed in the past to honour similar promises.