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Syria has agreed "in principle" to allow Arab League observers to visit the country, sources in Damascus said Friday.
UPDATE: The Arab League has turned down Syria's proposal for an observer mission because of the conditions Damascus wanted to set for the visit, according to a report in Lebanon's Daily Star. Diplomatic sources told the paper that Syria had requested that "human rights activists be excluded from the observer mission and only civilians working for Arab governments take part," to which the League was not prepared to agree. There has not yet been any official comment from either the Syrian government or the Arab League.
An unnamed senior official told the Associated Press:
"Syria has agreed in principle to the Arab League proposal [for observers] and we are still studying the details."
The BBC cites a Syrian diplomatic source as saying that Damascus informed the League of the decision Thursday.
According to its Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen:
The political source said Syrian acceptance was subject to some changes designed to protect what he called "the country's sovereignty and dignity". Officials do not want it to be called an observer mission, but say calling it an Arab League mission would be acceptable [...].
The changes, the source said, do not affect the spirit of the mission. He said "there are no tricks, we don't want to hinder them. The ball is now in the court of the Arab League".
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President Bashar al-Assad's government is also facing pressure from the wider international community.
France, Germany and the UK have tabled a United Nations resolution calling for Damascus to enact the Arab League plan. The resolution has reportedly won the backing of several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
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France is calling on the UN to take tougher action on Syria. Paris is ready to strengthen sanctions, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned Friday, saying al-Assad "was not willing to implement a reform program and now it is too late."
Cited by the AP, Juppe also indicated France may seek UN intervention:
"The UN must act [...] It is not normal for the UN Security Council not to act."
In Syria, the government's opponents took to the streets Friday to call on other countries to expel Syrian ambassadors in a bid to further isolate the regime, reported Egypt's Al Ahram.
At least six protesters were shot dead by security forces, according to activists, while state media reported that two soldiers were killed and one critically injured by a bomb.
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