Deadline Looms for Syrian Government

Posted November 25th, 2011 at 6:15 am (UTC-5)
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Time is running out for Syria to meet Arab League demands and end a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The Arab League has given Syria until midday Friday to change course and allow observers into the country or face new sanctions.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Istanbul, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the offer Syria's “last chance.” The French news agency also said Davutoglu called on Damascus to “put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people.”

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership two weeks ago, angered that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad failed to fulfill a pledge to bring an end to the violence and pull Syrian forces out of major cities.

League representatives are due to meet again Saturday to discuss the sanctions if Syria fails to sign the agreement. But Russia warned Friday such sanctions would be counterproductive.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow that what Syria needs most is to revive its internal political dialogue.

Lukashevich said Moscow needs more information on a French proposal to create so-called “humanitarian corridors” in Syria, to help bring medicine and other supplies to civilians in need. “In think we will return to this question when more clarity emerges about what specifically is being discussed,” he said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said he will seek Arab League support for the measure and discuss it with the United States and international partners at the United Nations.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said Thursday new violence on the ground has claimed at least another 47 lives. It said most of the deaths occurred in the flashpoint province of Homs, and that the victims included members of Syria's security forces, army deserters and civilians.

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.