Beirut: The Arab League overwhelmingly
approved sanctions on Sunday against Syria to pressure Damascus to
end its deadly eight-month crackdown on dissent, an
unprecedented move by the League against an Arab state.
Before the vote, Damascus slammed the vote as a betrayal
of Arab solidarity. Besides punishing an already ailing
economy, the sanctions are a huge blow for a Syrian regime
that considers itself a powerhouse of Arab nationalism.
At a news conference in Cairo, Qatari Foreign Minister
Hamad bin Jassim said 19 of the League`s 22 member nations
approved the sanctions, which include cutting off transactions
with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government
funding for projects in Syria. Iraq and Lebanon abstained.
"We aim to avoid any suffering for the Syrian people,"
bin Jassim said.
The sanctions are the latest in a growing wave of
international pressure pushing Syria to end its violent
suppression of protests against President Bashar Assad, which
the UN says has killed more than 3,500 people since March.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said the bloc
will reconsider the sanctions if Syria carries out an
Arab-brokered peace plan that includes sending observers to
the country and pulling tanks from the streets.
"We call on Syria to quickly approve the Arab
initiative," he said.
The state-owned Al-Thawra newspaper ran a front-page
headline saying the Arab League is calling for "economic and
commercial sanctions targeting the Syrian people."
It said the measure is "unprecedented and contradicts the
rules of Arab cooperation."
Since the revolt began, the regime has blamed armed gangs
acting out a foreign conspiracy for the bloodshed.