Arab League gives Syria 3 days to stop bloodshed

Leaders refuse to elaborate on steps to be taken if Assad fails to comply with ultimatum; France pulls envoy from Damascus.

By REUTERS
November 16, 2011 22:16
2 minute read.
Arab League

Arab League 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

 
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RABAT - Arab League foreign ministers on Wednesday gave Syria's government three days to agree to end its crackdown on protesters and allow in teams of observers.

The foreign ministers, meeting in the Moroccan capital, did not say what would happen if Damascus failed to comply.

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Asked if the proposal was a last-ditch attempt at diplomacy, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani told reporters: "We do not want to talk about a last-ditch attempt because I do not want this to sound like a warning."

"What I can say is that we are close to the end of the road as far as the (Arab League's) efforts on this front are concerned," he said.

Speaking at the same meeting, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said the time was not right to hold an Arab League summit on Syria.

A communique issued at the conclusion of the foreign ministers' meeting in Rabat said: "Observers are to be sent into Syria if the Syrian government signs the agreement within three days starting today and once the violence and the killing stop."

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"The observers will make sure Syrian security and pro-government militias do not attack peaceful demonstrations ... (and) will ensure that all armaments are withdrawn from cities and inhabited areas that have witnessed, or are witnessing protests," the communique said.

France recalled its ambassador to Damascus as Syria's suspension from the Arab League took effect, intensifying diplomatic pressure on President Bashar Assad to halt a violent eight-month-old crackdown on protests.

Syrian army defectors attacked an intelligence complex on the edge of Damascus in a high-profile assault that showed how close the popular uprising is to sliding into armed conflict.

Hours after the Arab League suspension took effect, Assad supporters threw stones and debris at the embassy of the United Arab Emirates and smeared its walls with graffiti, witnesses said. The embassy is in one of the most secure districts of the capital, near Assad's home and offices.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France was working with the Arab League on a draft resolution at the United Nations.

Last month Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have condemned Damascus, but since then the normally cautious Arab League has suspended Syria for failing to implement an Arab peace plan.

"New violence is taking place and that has led to the closure of the missions in Aleppo and Latakia and to recall our ambassador to Paris," Juppe said, referring to weekend attacks by pro-Assad demonstrators on French diplomatic premises, as well as Turkish and Saudi missions, in Syria.

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