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Arab League Rejects GCC Push to Suspend Syria

The Arab League has opted to seek a dialogue between Syrian president Bashar Assad and opposition leaders over suspension.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 10/18/2011, 12:16 AM

The Arab League on Monday rejected a push by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council allies to suspend Syria's membership in the body over Bashar al-Assad's brutal seven month crackdown, Arabic daily al-Hayyat reported.

Instead, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani said, the Arab League will seek to bring Assad's regime and Syria's nascent opposition National Council to the negotiating table.

"We will call all of the parties of the opposition and government to hold a dialogue within 15 days," Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi said after an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.

Al-Arabi's statement signifies a deep rift among Arab states over seven months of bloodshed in Syria, which is one of the seven founders of the Arab League.

The emergency meeting was held one month after the League urged the Syrian regime to stop killing protesters and start meaningful political reforms.

Sources told UAE-based Gulf News the discussions will focus on whether to suspend Syria's membership or any other punitive actions for failure to comply with the call made in its previous meeting.

Dr. Ammar Qurabi, rotating president of the Syrian Council for Change, one of three groups representing the Syrian opposition, thanked the GCC move to isolate Bashar's the government and stand by the people of Syria.

"The GCC might not succeed this time, but the move would send a supportive message to the Syrian people and the rest of the world," he said.

"Algeria, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen might stand with the Syrian regime in its killing campaign because of internal calculations in the four countries, but discussions on the suspension of Syrian membership would mean that influential Arab states are standing with the Syrian people," he added.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have increasingly targeted Assad's regime, which is a critical lynchpin in rival Iran's axis of influence in the region.