Arab League Moves to Suspend Syria Over Crackdown

Posted November 12th, 2011 at 6:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The Arab League on Saturday voted to suspend Syria's activities in the group until President Bashar al-Assad's government implements a peace plan to end violence against protesters.

A statement, read by Qatari Prime Minister and Arab League Chairman Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani after an emergency session in Cairo, said Syria retains its membership in the 22-member group, but it must remove its forces from the streets, begin talks with the opposition and release political prisoners. If not, the suspension will take effect on Wednesday.

The grouping also called on all Arab states to withdraw their ambassadors from Syria and consider economic sanctions on the country.

Syria's ambassador to the league, Youssef Ahmed, rejected the decision as illegal and contrary to the league's charter. He said his government remains committed to the peace plan brokered in the Arab League earlier this month.

In Damascus, hundreds of angry demonstrators attacked the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to protest the Arab League's decision.

A group of protesters showered the Saudi Embassy with rocks, breaking windows. Some of the protesters managed to get in, sacking the premises.

The crowd also broke through the gates of the Qatari embassy and chanted anti-Qatari slogans.

Meanwhile, violence in Syria continued with activists claiming that Syrian security forces killed 26 people on Friday.

The U.N. human rights office says at least 3,500 people have been killed in Syria in connection with anti-Assad protests, which have been under way since March. Syria has blamed much of the deadly violence on foreign-backed “terrorists and thugs.”

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby said Saturday the bloc will approach the United Nations on the issue of human rights in Syria. However, the league does not wish to see foreign intervention in Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama applauded the Arab League's decision, saying in a statement it will help increase diplomatic isolation on a government that has “flagrantly failed to keep its commitments” and “has systematically violated human rights and repressed peaceful protests.”

The top U.S. diplomat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said the Arab League took a “strong and historic stance” aimed at stopping the violence and protecting civilians in Syria.