Arab League Calls for Urgent Action To End Syria Crackdown

Posted November 16th, 2011 at 2:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey and members of the Arab League are calling for “urgent measures” to halt a government crackdown on opposition in Syria, as the eight-month uprising escalated with attacks by army defectors on a military installation.

The regional group and Turkey's foreign minister met in Morocco Wednesday to consider additional sanctions against Syria for refusing to end violence on dissenting citizens. Qatar's foreign minister said members of the league are working to stop the bloodshed on government opponents.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the gathering the Syrian government “will pay a high price.” Syria boycotted the talks, just days after the league voted to suspend Syria's membership.

The suspension was due to take effect Wednesday.

Syrian army defectors supporting the opposition cause attacked a government base near the capital, Damascus, Wednesday, fueling fears of a looming civil war.

The activists say rebels of the Free Syrian Army fired rockets and machine guns at an air force intelligence complex in the suburb of Harasta.

A Germany-based spokesman for Syria's Local Coordination Committees told VOA that the Free Syrian Army has established a temporary military council whose goal is to weaken Syrian security forces. The Free Syrian Army previously had no announced central command.

A group of men claiming to be Syrian army defectors also released a video statement Wednesday declaring their desertion from the pro-Assad military.

A rights group says other violence across Syria has killed at least 11 people on Wednesday, including at least four in Homs province.

There was no independent confirmation of the attacks or of the casualties.

In Europe Wednesday, France announced it is recalling its ambassador to Syria and closing its consular offices amid new violence.

France's foreign minister says the country is working with the Arab League at the U.N. General Assembly on a new draft resolution on Syria.

Government loyalists also have staged mass rallies in recent weeks. Syrian state television showed thousands of Assad supporters rallying in the port of Latakia Wednesday, holding up his picture and denouncing the Arab League.

The United Nations says at least 3,500 people have been killed in connection with the Syrian revolt since March. Syria blames much of the violence on foreign-backed terrorists and religious extremists.