(See EXTRA and MET for more on Middle East unrest.)
Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The Arab League extended until tomorrow a deadline for Syria to sign a deal letting in observers or face sanctions that include the freezing of government assets and a ban on flights to and from the country.
Outlawing dealings with the Syrian Central Bank is among measures that will be considered by the league’s economic and social council, which will convene on Nov. 26 should Syria fail to comply, according to a statement issued by the 21-nation group after a meeting at its headquarters in Cairo today.
“We call on the Syrian government to sign tomorrow,” Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi said in brief remarks to reporters.
The Arab initiative also calls on President Bashar Al- Assad’s government to end an eight-month crackdown the United Nations estimates has killed at least 3,500 people. The league has rejected Syrian requests to negotiate the terms of the deal, which was agreed on Nov. 2. The original deadline was Nov. 19.
Last week, the league suspended Syria, a founding member, for its handling of the unrest. It was the boldest action by the organization since its condemnation of Muammar Qaddafi’s crackdown paved the way for the UN resolution in March authorizing a North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign.
U.S., EU Sanctions
The UN has been paralyzed over Syria since Oct. 4, when Russia and China delivered the first double veto since 2008 to block a Security Council resolution calling for Assad to halt the crackdown. The U.S. and the European Union have already imposed their own sanctions on Syria.
U.S. sanctions target top officials, Syria’s largest mobile phone operator, Syriatel, and the Commercial Bank of Syria. The EU has blacklisted 74 people including senior military and intelligence officials, and European companies are forbidden from doing business with 19 firms and groups.
Turkey, a neighbor and key trade partner, says it will “strongly support” whatever the Arab League decides and yesterday Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Nov. 22 followed King Abdullah of Jordan in saying Assad should step down.
--Editors: Jennifer M. Freedman, Karl Maier
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