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Arab League issues ultimatum to Syria over violent crackdown

Syria has one day to sign an agreement allowing observers into the country or face economic sanctions.

Assad supporters protest the Arab League's meeting today.
Assad supporters protest the Arab League's meeting today.
Image: AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi/PA Images

THE ARAB LEAGUE has issued Syria with an ultimatum: it has one day to sign a deal allowing observers into the country or it will face economic sanctions.

Pressure has been intensifying against Bashar Assad’s government over its violence crackdown on political dissent, and recently Turkey’s prime minister urged Assad to step down.

In a statement this evening, the Arab League secretariat said that the group is “working to put an end to continuing violence and murder”.

The group formally suspended Syria’s membership last week in response to the ongoing crackdown after Syria breached a peace agreement under which it pledged to withdraw troops from certain areas. However, hundreds of people have reportedly been killed since that deal was agreed earlier this month.

The sanctions threatened today could including cutting transactions with Syria’s central bank and freezing assets. The league will meet on Saturday to determine specific measures if Syria fails to sign up to the observer mission protocol tomorrow.

Syrian state news agency SANA reports that a group of women rallying in support of Assad’s today criticised the league’s decision and claimed that the Arab League is trying to ‘internationalise’ Syria’s situation, threatening its sovereignty.

The report also said that the women demonstrating today “saluted the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the safety and security of the homeland”.

The dispute over observers came to the fore at the weekend, when the Arab League rejected the Syrian government’s proposed amendments to an already-agreed peace plan which would have altered the mandate of the observers’ mission. At the end of last week, Syria agreed “in principle” to allowing the mission into the country.

The UN says that at least 3,500 people have died since the uprising inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt began in mid-March. At least 15 people were killed in violence today, according to activists.

Read more: Arab League gives Syria deadline to end ‘repression’ >

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