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Syria signs Arab observer deal

Syria has signed an Arab League agreement allowing Arab observers into the country, its Foreign Minister said.

Speaking in Damascus, Walid al-Moallem said the deal was settled "a while ago" in Cairo after the league accepted amendments demanded by Syria.

The league had given Syria until Wednesday to sign the deal. It had warned that if Damascus did not it would probably ask the UN Security Council for action to try to end the Syrian regime's crackdown on a nine-month-old popular uprising.

By signing the deal, Syria is trying to avoid having the UN take action and appears to prefer to give Arabs a chance to end a crisis that has grown increasingly violent, fuelling fears that the country could slip into civil war.

However, many regime opponents say President Bashar Assad is trying to gain time as he continues his crackdown.

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