Syria faces new Arab deadline on observers

Updated: 2011-12-05 06:51

(China Daily)

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DAMASCUS, Syria - The Arab League on Sunday awaited Syria's response to a deadline to allow in observers to monitor the country's unrest, a day after it slapped sanctions on senior Syrian officials.

Syria faces new Arab deadline on observers 

People protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gather during a march in Adlb after Friday prayers. [Photo/Agencies]

The new deadline came as the death toll for Saturday and Sunday rose to at least 28 people across Syria, and after the UN Human Rights Council accused Damascus of "gross violations" of human rights.

However, an official in the Qatari capital Doha, where the ultimatum was issued late on Saturday, said no Syrian representative was expected in the Gulf state during the day to sign an accord.

The official, who requested anonymity, said that Syria had asked for "new clarifications and further amendments to be made to the protocol which was proposed" to send observers.

However, if Syrian officials "still want to sign, they can come tomorrow to Cairo", the official added.

An Arab League ministerial committee meeting in Doha on Saturday imposed a ban on travel to Arab states on 19 top Syrian officials in addition to setting the new deadline to accept observers.

"During the meeting we contacted Damascus ... and we asked them to come tomorrow (Sunday) to sign" the protocol on sending observers, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani said.

"We are waiting for a reply," he added. "As Arabs we fear that if the situation continues things will get out of Arab control."

Sheikh Hamad was speaking after a meeting to discuss Arab League sanctions against Damascus over its crackdown on nearly nine months of protests.

On the list of officials banned from travel to Arab states and whose assets are being frozen by those countries are Assad's brother Maher, telecoms magnate Rami Makhluf, and military and intelligence figures.

Saturday's meeting also decided to cut by half all Arab flights to and from Syria effective from Dec 15, including those of the national carrier Syrian Air, a statement said.

On Nov 27, the Arab League approved sweeping sanctions against Assad's government over the crackdown - the first time that the bloc has enforced punitive measures of such magnitude on a member.

The measures included an immediate ban on transactions with Damascus and its central bank and a freeze on Syrian government assets in Arab countries.

The vote on sanctions came after Damascus defied an earlier ultimatum to accept observers under an Arab League peace plan.

Agence France-Presse