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The Mideast

Syria Agrees 'In Principle' to Allow Arab League Observers Into Country

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November 16, 2011: Pro-Syrian regime protesters, shout pro-Syrian President Bashar Assad slogans during a demonstration in Damascus, Syria.AP

Syria has agreed "in principle" to allow an Arab League observer mission into the country, but Damascus was still studying the details, a senior Syrian official said Friday.

The 22-member Arab League formally suspended Damascus this week over its crackdown on an 8-month-old uprising, which the U.N. estimates has killed more than 3,500 people. The group wants to send hundreds of observers to the country to try to help end the bloodshed.

The Syrian official said Damascus has agreed to the mission but was still going over the details of the deal. The official asked not to be named because the issue is so sensitive.

Arab League officials in Cairo, the seat of the 22-member organization, could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is facing mounting pressure from home and abroad over the country's crisis, which appears to be spiraling out of control as attacks by army defectors increase and world leaders look at possibilities for a Syrian regime without him.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Friday called on the U.N. Security Council to act against Assad's regime, saying the time has come to strengthen sanctions against Syria.

"We must continue to exert pressure," Juppe told a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara. "The U.N. must act ... it is not normal for the U.N. Security Council not to act."

Juppe said France has called on Assad to change but "the regime did not want to know, which is not acceptable."

Juppe said France wants to work with the Arab League and countries of the region including Turkey, as well as with the Syrian opposition.

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."