Arab League to Send its Chief to Syria in Peace Mission

Posted August 28th, 2011 at 10:00 am (UTC-5)
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The Arab League says it will send its secretary-general to Syria to try to find a solution for the country's strife — a violent government crackdown on a five-month-old pro-democracy uprising.

The Arab bloc announced the initiative early Sunday after an emergency meeting in Cairo, but did not say when its chief, Nabil Elaraby, will travel to Damascus. In a statement, the Arab League called for an end to bloodshed “before it is too late.”

The United Nations has said more than 2,200 people have been killed since March when protesters began calling for reforms and an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Sunday that Ankara has lost confidence in Syria, its neighbor to the south. Turkish state news agency Anatolia quoted Mr. Gul as saying the situation has reached a stage in which any gestures by the Syrian government will be “too little, too late,” as he put it.

Syrian state news agency SANA says Mr. Assad authorized a new media law Sunday, requiring the government to lift most restrictions on local journalists and allow independent news organizations to operate.

The Syrian government has barred most foreign journalists from working in the country, making it difficult to verify reports of the unrest. Syrian opposition activists have dismissed Mr. Assad's previous promises of reforms as meaningless while the government crackdown continues.

Syrian rights activists say security forces attacked protesters who gathered at a mosque in the Damascus suburb of Kfar Sousa on Saturday, wounding several people including the imam. Syria's interior ministry issued a warning Sunday to Damascus residents not to respond to calls on social media for more demonstrations in the capital.

Rights groups say Syrian security forces also arrested anti-government protesters in the northwestern province of Idlib late Saturday.

The Syrian government denies reports of protests in the capital and blames the country's recent violence on what it calls armed gangs and terrorists backed by foreign conspirators.