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Arab League Approves 'Unprecedented' Sanctions on Syria

The Arab League voted to impose sanctions on Syria, which it previously suspended. Syria: it violates the 'rules of Arab cooperation.'
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/27/2011, 5:58 PM

The Arab League on Sunday approved sanctions against Syria hoping to pressure the regime to end its deadly eight-month crackdown on anti-regime protesters. In doing so, they join Western nations in their hard-line against Damascus.

Damascus slammed the move as a betrayal of Arab solidarity, with President Bashar al-Assad saying he would not be deterred from "fighting terrorism."

Assad's regime has seen the unrest rocking Syria transform from disparate, albeit large-scale protests into an armed insurgency by organized army defectors led by dissident Syrian officers in Turkey. Insurgent leaders, backed by Istanbul, say they have 20,000 fighters and that its ranks are swelling every day.

Qatar Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim told a news conference in Cairo on Sunday that 19 of the Arab League's 22 member nations approved the sanctions, which included cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria.

Iraq abstained and said it would refuse to implement the sanctions, while Lebanon "disassociated itself," he said.

The League's sanctions are seen as an unprecedented step against a fellow Arab nation. The Arab League also suspended Syria's membership in recent weeks.

Sanctions on Syria have been advocated by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council allies - including Qatar - for several months now. GCC leaders reportedly see Bashar's regime, along with Shiite Hizbullah in Lebanon, as critical strategic allies of arch-rival Iran.

Syria’s state-owned Al-Thawra newspaper ran a front-page headline Sunday, saying the Arab League is calling for "economic and commercial sanctions targeting the Syrian people." Is said the measure is "unprecedented and contradicts the rules of Arab cooperation."

Damascus faces mounting international pressure to halt its bloody crackdown on anti-regime protesters. UN officials say Assad's regime has killed more than 3,500 people - mostly civilians - since March.