Arab League Chief in Syria for Talks with Assad

Posted September 10th, 2011 at 6:51 am (UTC-5)
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Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby is in Syria for talks with the country's embattled President Bashar al-Assad, a day after activists said government forces killed several protesters.

Originally, Elaraby was expected to visit Syria Wednesday, but the visit was delayed at Syria's request.

The leader of the 22-member pan-Arab body is expected to convey concerns over the Syrian government's crackdown on protests, which have killed an estimated 2,200 people since March.

The Syrian government blamed “armed gangs” and “terrorists” for much of the violence that has erupted since protesters began calling for President Assad's resignation.

Meanwhile, international pressure has continued to mount against Mr. Assad for his deadly crackdown on dissent.

On Friday, European Union diplomats said the group had neared an agreement on sanctions banning new investments in Damascus' energy sector. A week ago, the EU announced economic sanctions that include an oil embargo.

Also, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has indicated Moscow may be willing to consider a U.N. Security Council resolution that sends a “strong message” to Mr. Assad.

Earlier this week, he told Euronews television that Russia may consider the move if the resolution also addresses the actions of anti-government protesters. Mr. Medvedev said some of them should be considered “terrorists.”

Russia has previously opposed attempts by Western governments to pass a U.N. Security resolution against Mr. Assad, instead preferring their own draft urging Syria to implement democratic reforms.