Tuesday 20 February 2018

Arab League gives Syria ultimatum

Aida Alami and Massoud A Derhally in Damascus

THE Arab League gave Syria three days to end bloodshed and allow observers in or face economic sanctions in an ultimatum last night.

The warning came as attacks on Syria's forces by military defectors added to the violence that has raged for eight months.

"We shall stop wasting time," Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani said during a news conference after the Arab League meeting yesterday in Rabat, Morocco, to discuss President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on dissent. "People are getting killed," he added.

Earlier; the Free Syrian Army attacked a base near Damascus linked to Air Force Intelligence, Ammar al-Wawi, a defector who is among its leaders, said by phone from an undisclosed location without giving details.

However the defector then added that on Tuesday the rebel force had destroyed an armoured personnel carrier at a base used by the intelligence agency in the city of Aleppo. The Air Force Intelligence has helped the government put down the protests.

The Cairo-based Arab League's action comes amid mounting international pressure on Mr Assad, including calls for him to quit.

The group announced on November 12 that it would suspend Syria's membership as his government continued its assaults on protesters after agreeing 10 days earlier to the bloc's plan for ending the bloodshed.

The Arab League had said Syria would be barred from the group's meetings until it withdraws tanks from cities, releases detained protesters and starts supervised talks with the opposition.

It called on all Arab countries to withdraw ambassadors, and said it planned economic and political sanctions. France recalled its ambassador to Damascus, intensifying diplomatic pressure on Mr Assad.

Foreign minister Alain Juppe said France was working with considerable urgency with the Arab League on a draft resolution on Syria for presentation at the UN.

Irish Independent

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