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Syria given 24 hours to matusign Arab League deal or face sanctions
Officials given ultim after missing deadline to let in international monitors amid rising death toll
- Haroon siddeque
- Guardian.co.uk, Sunday 4 December 2011 14.52 GMT
Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, said sanctions will take effect if Syria does not sign the initiative soon. Photograph: Carsten Koall/Getty
Syria has been given a final deadline by the Arab League to accept international observers into the country or face sanctions.
The Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, said on Saturday that the league had given Bashar al-Assad's regime 24 hours to sign its initiative. "If they want to come [and sign] tomorrow they can," he said, after a meeting of the Arab League ministerial committee in Doha.
He later told al-Jazeera television: "If the signing does not happen tomorrow, and I doubt it will … if the signing does not happen soon, then the Arab sanctions that have been approved will be in effect."
The Arab League's sanctions committee confirmed it would freeze the assets of 19 top Syrian officials and Assad associates, and ban them from entering other Arab countries. The number of flights to Syria would be halved. Thani warned that more measures could be imposed if Syria did not stop the crackdown against protesters.
The Arab League agreed to impose sanctions a week ago after Syria missed a previous deadline to allow monitors into the country, amid an escalating death toll. The UN's human rights chief, Navi Pillay said this week that the death toll from the crackdown against protesters in the nine-month uprising had reached "much more" than 4,000 and included 307 children. The UN human rights council has appointed a special investigator for Syria.
Despite the Arab League's efforts, the bloodshed has continued unabated. The Local Co-ordination Committees, which reports on protests, said 22 people, including two children, were killed on Saturday. They claimed 848 people were killed in November alone, including 59 children, making it the deadliest month since the uprising began. Restrictions on access for foreign press make it difficult to independently verify activists' reports.
The Syrian government claims it is fighting foreign-backed "terrorist groups" trying to create civil war who have killed around 1,100 soldiers and police officers since March. It has pointed to the emergence of the renegade Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has been launching attacks on the regular army, as evidence it is facing an armed insurgency. The main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, has urged the FSA to only use violence in defence of protesters.
Syria says sanctions by the Arab League amount to economic war and has accused the league of "internationalising" the crisis. Last week, Turkey, which was until recently a close ally of the Assad regime, increased pressure on the president by freezing financial assets and cutting strategic links with Damascus. China and Russia oppose sanctions against Syria and, in October, vetoed western efforts to pass a UN security council resolution condemning Assad's government.