Arab League suspends Syria, slaps sanctions

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Syrians splash around in a pond during a rally to show their support for their President Bashar al-Assad in the capital in Damascus on November 13, 2011, a day after the Arab League suspended Syria until President Bashar al-Assad implements an Arab League-brokered deal to end violence against protesters, calling for sanctions and transition talks with the opposition. Photo - Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

Arab League officials said they will hold a fresh meeting Wednesday on Syria amid signs of cracks in the resolve of the 22-member bloc to suspend Damascus over its violent crackdown on protests.

Sunday?s announcement of a new meeting came just a day after AL announced Syria?s imminent suspension, drawing international praise but sparking mob attacks on foreign embassies in Damascus.

?We have decided on a meeting of foreign ministers of the Arab League on November 16 at Rabat (Morocco) on Syria,? Algerian foreign ministry spokesman Amar Belani said.

In Rabat, a Moroccan official confirmed the meeting would take place.

Belani said that at a meeting in Cairo on 2 November, the Arab League?s foreign ministers had decided to give Syria 15 days to implement a peace plan.

Saturday?s vote to suspend Syria from the League was not consistent with that earlier decision, he added.

Earlier Sunday, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said the suspension of Syria was ?temporary and we will be able to lift it as quickly as possible.?

The foreign ministers recommended the withdrawal of Arab envoys from Damascus and agreed on sanctions, while inviting ?all currents in the Syrian opposition? to meet at its Cairo headquarters to map out a transition.

It said the suspension would remain in place until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad implements the 2 November accord which his government signed, in which his administration was to release detainees, withdraw the army from urban areas, allow free movement for observers and media, and negotiate with the opposition.


The Arab League resolution won widespread praise from the international community, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon hailing the ?strong and courageous? move, while the opposition Syrian National Council said the decision was a ?step in the right direction?.

In a surprise announcement seen as an attempt to head off the suspension, Syrian state television said on Sunday that Damascus had called for an urgent summit of the Arab League ?to address the crisis and its negative consequences in the Arab world.?

The report came even as Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi was announcing the group would be ?studying mechanisms it could implement to protect civilians in Syria.?

The League?s decision prompted an outpouring of anger among Assad supporters who surged in their tens of thousands into central Damascus on Sunday to show support for the president.

?The Syrian people are filling the squares of the nation and announce their rejection of the Arab League decision,? state television said, showing more protests in the commercial hub of Aleppo and other cities.

Late Saturday, hundreds of angry demonstrators attacked the embassies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which were among the countries that voted to suspend Syria. The attacks sparked howls of international outrage.

Anatolia news agency said thousands of protesters also attacked Turkey?s diplomatic missions in Syria, furious over Ankara?s support for the Arab League decision.

In response, Turkey ordered the evacuation of non-essential diplomatic personnel from Syria.

France condemned protesters? attacks on diplomatic missions in Syria and summoned the country?s ambassador.

Meanwhile, Russia said it will continue exporting arms to Syria since no international decision has been made outlawing it.

And Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lashed out at Washington and Europe, insisting they were preparing to topple Assad just like they worked to ?assassinate? Libyan leader Moammer Gaddafi.

Assad?s exiled uncle, Rifaat, meanwhile, proposed Sunday that Arab countries negotiate a deal with Damascus that guarantees the president?s security ?to allow him to resign?.

?The regime is ready to leave, but it wants guarantees, not only for its members but also that there will not be civil war after its departure,? said the former deputy president.

Activists accused Assad?s security forces of killing at least nine people on Sunday in the restive central cities of Homs and Hama, while also reporting that two members of the security forces were killed in an ambush.

In the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a 15-year-old boy was killed when security forces opened fire to disperse a group of students who tried to join a demonstration, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed.

Assad?s government has continued targeting dissenters since saying it had accepted a 2 November Arab League plan for ending the violence. Security forces killed 37 demonstrators Monday, Al Arabiya television reported, citing civil unrest. The US said 7 November that 71 civilians had died in the previous three days. More than 3,500 protesters have been killed in the eight months of violence, the United Nations maintains.

European Union has added 18 people belonging to Syrian Baathist regime alleged to be responsible for human-rights violations to a list of those targeted by an asset freeze and travel ban.

Of the Arab League?s 22 members, 18 voted for Syria?s suspension, with Iraq abstaining. Yemen and Lebanon opposed the decision. The bloc also called on all Arab countries to withdraw ambassadors from Damascus, and said it plans to impose economic and political sanctions on Syria.

Sources: Khaleejtimes, businessweek

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