The Arab League accepted the resignation of the Sudanese general who had led an Arab monitoring mission to Syria, and proposed appointing a former Jordanian foreign minister as a special envoy for the Syrian crisis.

Abdel Elah al-Khatib, the former Jordanian minister and UN envoy to Libya, was proposed as the special envoy to Syria by Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby during an Arab ministerial meeting in Cairo.

He also accepted the resignation of Mohammed al-Dabi, the Sudanese general who had led an Arab observer mission to Syria and offered his resignation to ministers meeting today.

Meanwhile, Syrian forces eased a week-long bombardment on Homs that has killed hundreds and caused a humanitarian crisis.

Shelling eased overnight and around 15 families were allowed to leave from the battered Baba Amro and Inshaat neighbourhoods.

Electricity and telephone lines were working in several districts of Homs after being cut off more than two weeks ago.

YouTube footage showed several thousand people rallying in Deir Baalba district.

Youths with their arms around each other's shoulders danced and waved the green and white flags of the republic overthrown by Assad's Baath Party in a 1963 coup.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees cited doctors at makeshift hospitals as saying at least 31 people were killed in Homs yesterday before the lull in bombardment.

President Assad has sent his forces into cities and towns across Syria to put down the uprising, drawing armed resistance, defections by soldiers, and world outrage at the ferocity of the crackdown.

As the uprising has evolved from pro-democracy street protests to armed insurrection, world powers fear a slide into civil war with knock-on effects for Syria's neighbours.

Gulf Arab states, the United States, Europe and Turkey hope diplomacy can force Mr Assad out and have ruled out military action of the kind that helped oust Libya's Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Mr Assad can count on the support of Russia, Syria's main arms supplier and an ally stretching back to the Soviet era, as well as Iran.

Moscow, which is keen to counter US influence in the Middle East, insists foreign powers should not interfere.