Syria boycotts Arab meeting today

Syria will boycott an Arab League meeting Wednesday to follow up its decision to suspend Damascus from the organization

Last Updated: Nov 16, 2011, 09:50 AM IST

Amman: Syria will boycott an Arab League meeting to follow up its decision to suspend Damascus from the organization, as regional states stepped up efforts to isolate President Bashar al-Assad for refusing to end a crackdown on eight months of protests.

The meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Rabat on Wednesday comes four days after they decided to discipline Syria for pursuing the crackdown instead of implementing an Arab peace initiative.

The League has stopped short of calling for Assad`s departure or proposing any Libya-style military intervention.

"In light of statements by officials in Morocco, Syria has decided not to participate in the Arab meeting in Rabat," the agency said, without giving details.

Morocco`s foreign minister said "Syrian colleagues" were welcome at the meeting but did not say if Syria`s foreign minister could attend.

Syrian forces killed at least six civilians on Tuesday, shooting from roadblocks in the northwestern province of Idlib and in raids on the central city of Homs and its environs, activists said. Several deaths also were reported in fighting between army defectors and loyalist forces on both sides.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bodies of three young activists who were killed in custody were delivered to their families on Tuesday, including 23-year-old Osama al-Sheikh Youssef.
"The family collected the body from Tishreen Military Hospital on the condition of a quiet burial. Security police in plainclothes stood on top of Osama watching as we lowered him into the ground," an activist who attended the funeral said.

Syrian authorities have banned most independent media. They blame the unrest on "armed terrorist gangs" and foreign-backed militants whom they say have killed 1,100 soldiers and police. The United Nations say the crackdown has killed 3,500 people.

With armed resistance mounting against Assad`s rule, alongside mostly peaceful protests, hundreds of Syrians have been killed this month in one of the bloodiest periods of the revolt, inspired by uprisings which have overthrown leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

An Arab official, who did not want to be named, said insurgent attacks on loyalist forces rose sharply in the last 10 days, although the army remains largely cohesive.

Tank bombardment continued overnight on Bab Amro, an area of Homs that has seen regular protests against Assad and where army deserters have been fighting loyalist forces, witnesses said.

"The tanks were firing according to instructions they were receiving from snipers stationed on rooftops," a retired army officer in his 50s, who had fled the district, said.

PTI