Bloomberg News

Syria Calls for Summit Meeting After Arab League Suspension

November 15, 2011

(Updates with Syrian parliament response to Arab League decision in eighth paragraph.)

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Syria called for an emergency Arab League summit after the organization suspended the country as President Bashar al-Assad’s government pressed on with a crackdown against demonstrators.

The meeting would “address the Syrian crisis,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported yesterday, citing an unidentified government official. Syria would welcome a visit by an Arab League delegation including civilian and military monitors before the organization’s suspension takes effect on Nov. 16, the news service said.

The crackdown has continued even after the Syrian government on Nov. 2 agreed to an Arab League plan for ending the violence. Security forces yesterday killed 28 protesters, half of them in the city of Hama, Al Jazeera television reported, citing activists. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Nov. 7 that Syrian forces had killed 71 civilians in the previous three days.

“Assad will try and blur the issue by calling for a summit,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in an e-mailed response to questions. “He will invite in monitors and deploy more of the army and security services to scare people to stay home so it seems he has the issue under control.”

Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Arabi yesterday called for “international protection” for Syrian civilians, while saying the organization doesn’t have the ability to provide that security itself, Al Jazeera television reported.

Syrians Rally

“It’s not a shame to go to the U.N. Security Council as it is the only organization capable to enforce such a mechanism,” El-Arabi told reporters in Tripoli.

Anti-government protests erupted in Syria in mid-March, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. A revolt in Libya lead to the death last month of that country’s long-time ruler, Muammar Qaddafi.

Assad has blamed the fighting on Islamic militants and foreign provocateurs. Army defectors attacked a bus carrying Syrian soldiers in the southern city of Idlib and killed nine of them, Observatory for Human Rights in Syria said yesterday.

‘Blatant Interference’

The People’s Assembly, or Syrian parliament, denounced the Arab League resolution, saying that it violated the organization’s charter and was a “blatant interference in Syria’s internal affairs,” SANA reported today. Thousands of Syrians rallied yesterday in different cities to condemn the Arab League’s decision, it said. More than 3,500 protesters have been killed in Syria, the United Nations said Nov. 8.

The Arab League said on Nov. 12 that Syria will be barred from the group’s meetings until it withdraws tanks from cities, releases detained protesters and starts supervised talks with the opposition. Syria is the second Arab nation this year to be suspended from the regional bloc after Libya.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the Arab League’s action shows “the increasing diplomatic isolation of a regime that has systematically violated human rights.”

Following the Arab League action, protesters stormed Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Damascus, breaking windows and “tampering with its contents,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. Saudi Arabia condemned the attack and said it holds the Syrian government responsible for the safety of Saudi interests, the SPA reported yesterday, citing unidentified officials in the Foreign Ministry.

Turkish Embassy

About a thousand people attacked Turkey’s embassy in Damascus before police intervened, Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency said.

France condemned attacks on embassies and consulates in Syria and summoned the Syrian ambassador to a meeting in Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

“These attacks are an attempt to intimidate the international community after the Arab League’s courageous decision” to suspend Syria, the ministry said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the Arab League measure “incorrect” and “premeditated,” Interfax reported today.

Of the Arab League’s 22 members, 18 voted for Syria’s suspension, with Iraq abstaining and Yemen and Lebanon opposing the plan.

The league also called on all Arab countries to withdraw ambassadors from Damascus, and said it plans to impose economic and political sanctions on Syria.

--With assistance from Mourad Haroutunian in Riyadh, Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid, Nadeem Hamid and Greg Stohr in Washington and Paul Tighe in Sydney. Editors: Louis Meixler, Ben Holland.

To contact the reporter on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net Ola Galal in Cairo on ogalal@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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