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Syria Ignores Arab Deadline, Faces New Sanctions

| 05.12,11. 03:54 PM |


Syria Ignores Arab Deadline, Faces New Sanctions

Syria faced new sanctions after flouting Sunday an Arab League deadline to accept observers to monitor the unrest sweeping the country, which the U.N. says has killed more than 4,000 people.

A senior Qatari official said Damascus had asked for "new clarifications and further amendments to be made to the protocol which was proposed" to cover the deployment of the observer mission.

But the Arab ministers had "refused."

The Qatari official said, however, that if Syrian officials "still want to sign, they can come tomorrow to Cairo."

The Arab League ministerial committee late on Saturday gave Damascus until Sunday to allow an observer mission into the country and thereby avoid further sanctions.

The meeting in Doha listed 19 Syrian officials it said would be banned from travel to Arab countries and whose assets would be frozen by those states.

The panel also called for an embargo on the sale of Arab arms to Syria and cut by half the number of Arab flights into and out of Syria with effect from December 15.

The national carrier Syrian Air will be affected by the flight reductions, while among the 19 officials banned from travel to Arab countries are the defense and interior ministers and other top intelligence officials.

President Bashar al-Assad's brother, General Maher al-Assad, who heads the feared Fourth Armored Division, and his cousin Rami Makhlouf, a telecommunications tycoon, are also among those banned from travel.

The Arab panel also tasked a committee with drawing up a list of Syrian businessmen involved in financing the repression, ahead of slapping them with sanctions.

"This is a message to businessmen who have kept silent, so that they will choose what side to be on," said Najib Ghadban, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council which represents most of Assad's opponents.

An analyst in Damascus said there were "very few chances" that the government would allow in observers under the conditions set by the Arab League. Syria says the conditions undermine its sovereignty.

The Arab League had on November 27 approved a first wave of sweeping sanctions against Assad's government over the crackdown -- the first time that the bloc has enforced such punitive measures against a member state.

Those measures included an immediate freeze on transactions with Damascus and its central bank and on Syrian regime assets in Arab countries.

The latest standoff between the Syria and the Arab League comes as the death toll from violence across the country on Saturday and Sunday rose to at least 31, and after the U.N. Human Rights Council accused Damascus of "gross violations" of human rights.

On the ground, three children aged 11, 14 and 16, were among eight people killed across Syria on Sunday by security forces and pro-regime "shabiha" militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog earlier reported 11 civilians among 23 people killed on Saturday, most occurring in the northwestern province of Idlib, a focal point of anti-regime protests raging since March.

Sunday's deadline was announced in Doha by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who also warned against the internationalization of the Syrian crisis if Damascus did not heed the Arab call.

"As Arabs we fear that if the situation continues things will get out of Arab control," Sheikh Hamad said.

In Geneva on Friday, an emergency meeting of the Human Rights Council passed a resolution "strongly condemning the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities."

Damascus rejected the resolution as "unjust" and said it was "prepared in advance by parties hostile to Syria."

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in Geneva on Friday that at least 4,000 people have been killed in the crackdown on dissent in Syria since mid-March.

"We are placing the figure at 4,000. But the information coming to us is that it's much more," she said.


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