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Arab League Calls For Dialogue In Syria

Soldiers man a checkpoint in the city of Rastan in central Homs Province.

Soldiers man a checkpoint in the city of Rastan in central Homs Province.

The Arab League plans to bring together Syria's government and opposition groups to seek ways to end the violence in the country.

The announcement was made after an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo.

The Arab League agreed to form a committee to forge dialogue between the government and opposition.

Earlier, the head of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi denied reports Syria had been suspended from the regional body over the worsening army crackdown on political unrest.

The United Nations says 3,000 people have died in the crackdown, including at least 187 children.

Syria's ambassador to the Arab League, Youssef Ahmed, told Arab ministers the timing of the Cairo meeting was "strange and suspicious."

"We hope it is not connected in one way or another to the failure of the United States and its European allies against Syria in the Security Council, although we believe that to be the case," he said.

Qatar's Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani denied that the meeting, called by Arab Gulf states, was a response to diplomatic pressure.

Meanwhile, Syrian troops are reported to have opened fire in the resort town of Zabadani on the border with Lebanon, a day after heavy fighting in the area between army defectors and loyalist forces.

Residents said troops searched areas near the town looking for defectors. Residents say the troops ransacked homes, seized cars, and arrested at least 100 people, including three female university students.

compiled from agency reports