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Arab League claims breakthrough in Syria -

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TONY EASTLEY: Arab leaders in Cairo claim to have reached a breakthrough with Syria to end nearly
eight months of bloodshed.

The statement from the Arab League says the Syrian government has accepted a peace plan to withdraw
its security forces from the streets and release thousands of prisoners arrested since March.

Similar promises have been made before and little if anything has changed.

Middle East correspondent Anne Barker reports.

(Sound of a crowd)

ANNE BARKER: It's hard to reconcile the news of a peace agreement in Cairo with the latest footage
emerging from Syria itself.

On the very day that Arab leaders were talking peace more protesters were being shot and killed in
the central Syrian city of Homs.

Activists in Homs said that 11 Sunni Muslim villagers were shot yesterday by security forces when
they stopped at a roadblock outside the town, and earlier reports said nine Alawite villagers had
been dragged from a bus near Homs and killed on Tuesday.

(Sound of men speaking Arabic)

Amateur video that can't be independently verified shows a gruesome scene of bloodied bodies gagged
and with hands bound behind their backs near the village of Kfar Laha - outside Homs - where some
of the worst protests have taken place since March.

One local activist Ahmad Fouad told reporters the dead were all workers at a nearby factory and
indications were they were killed yesterday morning.

It's bloodshed like this that foreign leaders and the Arab League have tried for months to stop -
through protest and sanctions and through direct appeals to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

Until now he's made only token offers of reform.

But now the Arab League claims that Syria has accepted a deal to end nearly eight months of
violence, and open talks with opposition groups.

(Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani speaking Arabic)

Qatar's prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani says Syria has agreed to withdraw its
troops from the streets and to release thousands of people detained during the months of
anti-government protests.

(Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani speaking Arabic)

"The Syrian government has agreed to the following," he told a news conference. "a complete halt to
violence to protect Syrian citizens, the release of prisoners and removing the military presence
from cities and residential areas".

The sheikh also called for Syria to act on the plan immediately.

(Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani speaking Arabic)

"The Arab League welcomes the Syrian government's agreement to the Arab plan and emphasises the
need for the immediate, full and exact implementation of the articles in the plan."

But without any corresponding statement from Syria it's hard to know what if any difference the
peace plan will make on the ground.

This is Anne Barker reporting for AM.