'Arab League to increase pressure on Syria'

UN: Syrian government spent five months trying to crush street unrest using troops and tanks, killing at least 2,200 protesters.

Arab League Reuters 311 (photo credit: Reuters/ Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Arab League Reuters 311
(photo credit: Reuters/ Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
CAIRO - Arab governments will step uppressure on Syria's President Bashar Assad at the Arab Leagueon Saturday with a demand he end the bloody crackdown onprotesters trying to remove him, a delegate to the League saidahead of the meeting.

The Syrian government has spent five months trying to crushstreet unrest using troops and tanks, killing at least 2,200protesters according to the United Nations.

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"There has been an agreement in talks held between the Arabstates on ... pressuring the Syrian regime to completely stopthe military operations and withdraw its forces," the delegateto the 22-member Arab League's council told Reuters.

"A clear message (will be sent) to the Syrian president thatit has become unacceptable for the Arab states to stay silent onwhat is happening in Syria, especially following the SecurityCouncil's move to impose sanctions on Syrian officials and thecondemnation from the United Nations Human Rights Council," saidthe delegate, who asked not to be named.

He said Arab foreign ministers would also discuss a proposalto send a ministerial delegation to Damascus to "directly informthe Syrian leader of the Arab position".

International condemnation of the repression escalated thismonth after Assad sent the army into several cities includingHama, Deir al-Zor and Latakia. Some Arab states have brokenmonths of silence to call for an end to the violence.

It will be the first official Arab League meeting on Syriasince the start of the uprising. The meeting was due to begin at9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT)

The delegate said it was unlikely the Cairo-based body wouldsuspend Syria's membership, as it did with Libya after the startof the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in February.

In March, the League backed a UN Security Councilresolution allowing NATO warplanes to patrol Libyan airspace andbomb Gaddafi's forces to protect civilians. Its approval wasseen as necessary for that operation to go ahead.

Many Arab commentators have criticized the League for itstimid reaction to the violence in Syria. It spent months onlyvoicing "concern", suggesting divisions among its members, someof which are facing their own public protests.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah issued a rare condemnation of apowerful Arab neighbor on Aug. 8, demanding an end to thebloodshed and recalling his ambassador from Damascus.

Bahrain and Kuwait recalled their ambassadors hours afterthe Saudi king's decision and the Sunni Islam's most venerableinstitution of learning, al-Azhar in Cairo, called the Syrianassault on protesters an unacceptable "human tragedy."
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