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Arab League set to announce plan to end Syrian uprising

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Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

(Read caption) Syrians who live in Greece march during an anti-Assad rally in Athens on Monday.

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Syria and the Arab League are expected to announce a plan today to end the eight-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's government that has left at least 3,000 dead.

Leaked details of the plan outline significant concessions from the Assad regime, but ahead of the announcement the Syrian opposition and its international backers were skeptical that such concessions would actually be implemented.

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The Associated Press reports that several Arab League diplomats confirmed that a plan to resolve the Syrian conflict would be revealed on Wednesday in Cairo, though they spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposal is not yet public.  According to the diplomats, the plan will entail withdrawal of Syria's tanks from the streets, release of all political prisoners, a new constitution, and free presidential and parliamentary elections. 

Officially, the League has said it is still awaiting a response from Syria, according to various Arab media. Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reports that the Arab League deputy secretary general, Ahmed Ben Helli, told Al-Arabiya television that "until now, the Arab League has not been informed of Syria's formal response to the Arab initiative."

The plan appears to go further than the Arab League's initial proposal. Al Jazeera English writes that the proposal entailed the military withdrawal and the prisoner release, but stopped short of free elections and a new constitution. Rather, the League sought deployment of Arab monitors to the country and that Damascus open a dialogue with the opposition. 

It is unclear which, if any, of Syria's demands are included in the proposal.  Reuters writes that a Lebanese official with close ties to Syria said the Assad regime wants "the opposition to drop weapons, the Arab states to end their funding for the weapons and the opposition, and an end to the media campaign against Syria."

The opposition says they are wary of the promise of a deal without knowing the details. Omar Idlibi, a member of the opposition National Council, told Reuters, "We fear that this agreement is another attempt to give the regime a new chance to crush this revolution and kill more Syrians."

"It helps the Syrian regime to remain in power while the demands of the people are clear in terms of toppling the regime and its unsuitability even to lead a transitional period," he said.

And The New York Times writes that the international response to the plan's announcement "broke along predictable lines."

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[Russian] Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said the Arab League proposal offered both sides in Syria the chance to “decide their own future through national dialogue, national reconciliation, peacefully without resorting to violence.” ...

“We have had a lot of promises of reform, and only violence in terms of the action that we have seen from the Assad regime,” the [US] State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said at a briefing in Washington. “So let’s wait and see: a) whether we really have a deal here, and b) whether that deal is implemented.”

Meanwhile, the Syrian military has been discovered laying mines along the Lebanese border, in what the Associated Press calls "the latest sign of Syria’s increasing isolation and just how deeply shaken the Assad regime has become since the uprising began."  Syrian refugees have been fleeing across the Lebanese and Turkish borders to escape the violence in their country.  A Syrian official told AP that the mines were meant to stop arms smuggling.

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