Syria set to accept observers in bid to end violence

Have your say

Syria has agreed “in principle” to allow an observer mission into the country as fresh anti-government protests erupted and France called for the UN to act against President Bashar Assad.

The Arab League has formally suspended Damascus over its crackdown on an eight-month-old uprising, which the UN estimates has killed more than 3,500 people.

The group wants to send hundreds of observers to try to help end the bloodshed.

“Syria has agreed in principle to the Arab League proposal (for observers) and we are still studying the details,” a senior Syrian official said.

Mr Assad is facing mounting pressure from home and abroad over the country’s crisis, which appears to be spiralling out of control as attacks by army defectors increase and some protesters take up arms to protect themselves. The escalating violence has raised fears of civil war.

“We call on the Syrian opposition to avoid recourse to an armed insurrection,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara, Turkey.

“A civil war would of course be a true catastrophe.”

Asked about the possibility of foreign intervention, Mr Juppe said: “This would have to be within the framework of the UN Security Council.”

He also called on the UN Security Council to act against Mr Assad’s regime, saying the time has come to strengthen sanctions against Syria.

“We must continue to exert pressure,” Mr Juppe said. “The UN must act ... it is not normal for the UN Security Council not to act.”

Mr Davutoglu, responding to a question on whether his country would support a no-fly zone over Syria, said there might be need to enforce some measures if Syria maintains its crackdown on civilians. He said the first actions should be economic, but “other options must be evaluated later”.

Syrian activists said at least five people were killed as security forces fired on anti-government protests.