Middle East

Syria unrest: Damascus delays Arab League chief's visit

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi. Photo: August 2011
Image caption Nabil al-Arabi had been expected to ask Syria to hold elections within three years

Syria has made a last-minute request for the Arab League chief to delay his planned visit aimed at pressing for an end to Damascus' crackdown on protests.

Syria asked Nabil al-Arabi to put off Wednesday's visit "due to circumstances beyond our control", the official Sana news agency said.

Mr Arabi had been expected to outline Arab proposals to halt Syria's clampdown and also launch reforms.

Meanwhile, Syrian security services reportedly killed at least two people.

Syrian activists said a 15-year-old boy was among those killed in the flashpoint central province of Homs on Tuesday.

The activists also said that another five bodies were found in the province.

Access to Syria has been severely restricted for international journalists, and it is rarely possible to verify accounts by witnesses and activists.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly stated that it is tackling organised gangs.

'Biased language'

On Tuesday, Sana said that Mr Arabi had already been notified about Damascus' 11th-hour request to postpone his visit.

"He has been informed of those circumstances, and a new date will be set for the visit," the news agency said.

It did not provide any further details.

In Damascus, Mr Arabi had been expected to present an initiative agreed by the 22-member Arab League last month.

The document reportedly envisages holding elections in Syria within three years.

It also asks Mr Assad to commit to the reforms he had pledged in his speeches.

However, Syria initially reacted angrily saying the document contained "unacceptable and biased language".

Thousands of people have been detained across Syria since the anti-government protests started in March this year.

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