- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — Syria has accepted an Arab League proposal calling for it to withdraw armored vehicles from the streets and stop violence against protesters in a bid to end the country’s 7-month-old political crisis, which has led to the deaths of some 3,000 people.

The agreement was announced Wednesday by Qatar 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 Homs, a city at the heart of Syria’s uprising, as activists reported two grisly attacks that has killed at least 20 people in the past 24 hours, although it was not clear who was behind the latest attacks.

Syria agreed to withdraw all tanks and armored vehicles from the streets, stop violence against protesters, release all political prisoners 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.

“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,” he said.

It remains unclear if the agreement will make a difference on the ground.

Nor did the proposal state where the dialogue between authorities and the opposition is to take place. Arab diplomats involved in the process said they had suggested Cairo, while Syrian insisted that all dialogue take place in the capital, Damascus.

Syria’s opposition has refused to enter into any dialogue as long as President Bashar Assad remains in power.

The proposal was presented by a council of Arab foreign ministers. Notably, Syrian Foreign Minster Walid al-Moallem did not attend the meeting. Instead, Syria’s ambassador to Egypt and the Arab League, Youssef Ahmed, delivered Syria’s response.

The United Nations says some 3,000 people have been killed since the revolt began in March.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday he supported the agreement.

“I hope that this agreement will be implemented without delay,” he told reporters in Tripoli, Libya, but noted that Mr. Assad has not kept past promises.

The fresh bloodshed, which apparently started late Tuesday, suggests Syria is sliding toward chaos amid increasing signs that the crisis was exacerbating religious and sectarian tensions.

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