Syria Agrees to Arab League Chief Visit

Posted September 4th, 2011 at 10:40 am (UTC-5)
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The head of the Arab League says Syria has agreed to host him for a visit that will likely take place this week, as Syrian authorities continue to crack down on political dissent across the country.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said in Cairo Sunday the Syrian government told him it “welcomes” the visit. He says he will express Arab concerns about the deadly violence that has shaken the country and listen to the opinions of Syrian leaders.

One week ago, Syrian authorities rejected an Arab League statement calling for an end to the violence. The pan-Arab organization – which has Syria as a member – urged the Syrian government to stop the bloodshed “before it is too late.”

The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been killed during the Syrian crackdown since March, when protesters began calling for reforms and an end to the autocratic rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian government has blamed the violence on what it calls armed gangs and terrorists backed by foreign conspirators.

Syrian activists reported government forces killed five more people Saturday as they hunted for Adnan Bakkour, the attorney general of Hama province.

In a video released Wednesday, Bakkour said he was stepping down to protest the crackdown. However, Syria's government says Bakkour was kidnapped and made the statement under duress.

According to witnesses, government tanks also moved against the town of Telkalakh, near the Lebanese border, and mourners in the Damascus suburb of Douma chanted slogans denouncing the killing of a young protester Friday.

Saturday's bloodshed came as a European Union embargo on Syrian oil and petroleum products went into effect.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the EU action, saying unilateral sanctions do no good and destroy partnerships. However, the United States said the embargo sends a powerful message to Mr. Assad's government to end the violence and allow a peaceful political transition to begin.