Iranian president makes surprise appeal to Syria to end violence and open dialogue with opposition.
Nabil el-Araby, the head of the Arab League, says he has reached an “agreement on reforms” in Syria during talks with President Bashar al-Assad.
El-Araby met Assad and other senior officials in Damascus on Saturday.
“We have reached agreement on steps to carry out the reforms, [and] the elements will be submitted to the council of the Arab League,” which meets in Cairo on Monday, El-Araby said after the meeting.
El-Araby told journalists in Egypt that he had urged Assad to “speed up reform plans through a timetable that will make every Syrian citizen feel that he has moved to a new stage”.
The state-run Syrian news agency SANA said el-Araby had “affirmed the Arab League’s rejection of all forms of foreign interference in Syrian internal affairs” and that the two leaders had agreed on “a number of practical steps for speeding up the reform process in Syria”.
According to information leaked to the media earlier this week about el-Araby’s visit, he was to call for the withdrawal of troops and tanks from Syrian cities and towns and to push for elections to be held within three years.
El-Araby had originally been expected to travel to Damascus on Wednesday, but Arab diplomats said the visit was delayed at Syria’s request.
Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League urged Syria two weeks ago to end the months of violence “and resort to reason before it’s too late”.
Activists said el-Araby’s visit to Syria was long overdue. They also had been critical of the Arab League for remaining silent during the government’s crackdown on protesters, Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh, reporting from neighbouring Jordan, said.
“It has been described by activists as an attempt by the Arab League to save the Syrian leadership,” he said.
The visit came as the Local Co-ordination Committees, a network of activists, said 15 people had been killed by Syrian security forces and troops on Saturday.
The group said 12 of the victims were killed in the central city of Homs. Three other deaths were reported in the northern Idlib province, in the village of al-Rami and in Saraqeb.
A day earlier, Syrians took to the streets for another Friday of protests, calling for international help to stop the Syrian government’s crackdown that activists say has claimed more than 2,200 lives.
Large protests called “Friday for International Protection” were reported in cities including Qamishli in the northeast, Homs and Hama in the centre of the country, and Deir al-Zor in the east.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission, an umbrella bloc of activists, has appealed to the international community to send in human rights monitors to help deter military attacks on civilians in the increasingly bloody crackdown.