Arab League issues Syria new deadline

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Qatars Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani     Gallery Enlarge Image

By S Kumar
Date  4 Dec 2011

The Arab League issued Syria a Sunday deadline to sign an initiative to end the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters, Qatar state media reported.

League officials responded to requests by Damascus for some clarifications to the initiative, but did not make any key changes, according to Qatar's foreign minister.

It is now up to the Syrian regime officials to sign the paperwork agreeing to end the violence, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said.

"We are awaiting an answer from them"

Syria's 'graphic' video misleading The league met in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The deadline was announced the same day the league released more information on Syrian sanctions issued last month, including freezing the assets of 19 top officials linked to President Bashar al-Assad. The officials include Maher al-Assad, the president's brother.

The sanctions also include banning the officials from traveling to Arab countries and reducing flights in and out of Syria by 50%, the news agency said.

Ahmed Hamoudi, general coordinator of the Egypt-based Syrian Revolution Coordination, expressed skepticism about whether the sanctions would help end al-Assad's 11-year rule.

"The economic sanctions by the Arab League serve a good purpose of pressuring the Syrian regime and weakening it, but I don't think the Arab League will be able to fulfill the political ambitions of the Syrians -- and that is to topple the Assad regime," Hamoudi said.

"We want to see the Syrian file taken to the U.N. Security Council and more immediate measures on the ground, like a no-fly zone and a buffer zone at the Turkish border."

Last month, the Arab League issued a deadline for Syria to agree to allow league observers into the country to monitor response to civil unrest -- or face economic sanctions.

Damascus failed to respond to the deadline, which led finance ministers from Arab League countries to recommend economic sanctions.

Economic sanctions imposed last month include cutting ties with Syria's central bank, banning high-profile Syrian officials from visiting Arab nations and freezing the assets of the Syrian government, according to a senior league official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

League officials have called on the regime to end the violence against protesters calling for the president to step down.

The number of deaths has reached at least 4,000 since the crackdown began in mid-March and could be much higher, Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said Thursday.

The uprising against al-Assad began in February. Demonstrations have continued across the country, with protesters demanding his ouster and democratic elections.

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