Deal clinched for rebel retreat from Syria's Homs: negotiator

BEIRUT - Syrian rebels have reached a deal with the government to pull out opposition fighters, civilians and wounded people from the army-besieged city of Homs, a rebel negotiator said Sunday.

"An agreement occurred between representatives of the rebels and the chiefs of security, in the presence of the Iranian ambassador, for the pullout of fighters from the Old City to the northern countryside of Homs," Abul Hareth al-Khalidi told AFP, adding that talks are now focused on implementation.

Homs was dubbed the "capital of the revolution" at the start of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Around 2,250 people, mostly fighters, will evacuate the Old City area, which lies in the heart of Syria's third city Homs, according to a version of the agreement obtained by AFP from an opposition source.

Abul Harith said civilians and wounded people will also be evacuated from the battered Old City, much of which has been destroyed by near-daily bombardment and constant fighting.

Fighters will withdraw to a rebel-controlled area in the north of Homs province, according to the text.

They will be allowed to withdraw with light weapons, and one rocket launcher will be permitted on every bus used for the evacuation.

The Red Crescent, adds the text, will transport the wounded.

"The guarantors (of the deal) will be the presence of members of the United Nations and Iranian negotiators on the buses," according to the text.

The deal was reached as part of an exchange for an unknown number of Iranian and Lebanese prisoners currently held by the Islamic Front, Syria's largest rebel alliance.

"Implementation will begin after those being held by the Islamic Front are released, and after permission is given to allow relief to enter the (Shiite, pro-regime) towns of Nubol and Zahraa in Aleppo province," according to the text.

It was impossible to reach Syrian government officials on Sunday to confirm the reports.