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Arab League suspends Syria, demands end to killing

posted 12 Nov 2011, 07:46 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Nov 2011, 07:47 ]

The Arab League suspends Syria over a failure to end its security crackdown, adding that economic and political sanctions will be imposed on the country.

CAIRO, EGYPT (NOVEMBER 12, 2011) (REUTERS) - The Arab League called on Syria's army to stop the killing of civilians on Saturday (November 12) and said it was suspending Syria from the regional body in a surprise move that turns up the heat on President Bashar al-Assad.

The League will impose economic and political sanctions on Assad's government and has appealed to its member states to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus, said Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim. He added that the suspension of Syria from the League would take effect on November 16.

"In view of the Syrian government's failure to carry out -- in its entirety and immediately -- the Arab League's initiative that was signed at Foreign Ministerial level meeting on November 2, 2011, (we announce) the suspension of the participation of the Syrian delegation in meetings of the Arab League council and all of the agencies associated with as of November 16," he said at a press conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Hopes among Western powers that Assad would be isolated by his Arab neighbours were repeatedly dashed until now.

Some Arab leaders have been reluctant to turn against one of their peers, given the message it might send to their own restive populations, diplomats say.

But Assad has pressed ahead with the military crackdown despite an Arab peace plan brokered on November 2.

The United Nations says 3,500 people have now been killed in months of violence.

Jassim held out the possibility that the Arab League could call on the United Nations to help protect the rights of Syrians.

"If the violence and killing doesn't stop, the Secretary General will call on international organisations dealing with human rights, including the United Nations," he said.

Since the Arab peace deal, Syrian security forces have killed more than 100 people in Homs, Human Rights Watch said on Friday (November 11), and indignation at perceived dithering by Syria's neighbours has grown.

The head of Syria's Arab League delegation, Youssef el-Ahmed, said earlier on Saturday that the army had begun withdrawing from cities and condemned the United States for "provocative interference" in his country's internal affairs.