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Sunday, November 13, 2011

2012 shaping up to be bloodier than 2011 - Great wars likely to break out soon



Syria calls emergency meeting of Arab League
President Assad requests summit of regional bloc a day after the body votes to suspend Damascus over bloody crackdown.

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Syria has called for an emergency summit of Arab League heads of state to discuss unrest in the country, a day afterthe regional bloc threatened to suspend its membership if it did not end its deadly months-long crackdown on anti-government protests.
The objective of the proposed summit would be to discuss the unrest's "negative repercussions on the Arab situation", reported Syrian state television on Sunday.
"The Arab League could have imposed immediate sanctions or suspended Syria outright, but surprisingly did not do that. It wanted to send a very strong message to Syria."
- Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, Cairo
The Arab League on Saturday gave Syria a three-day deadline to end its crackdown or face sanctions. If Syria failed to comply, the regional bloc said the suspension would take effect on November 16.
The decision, which came after a meeting of Arab ministers in the Egyptian capital, did not amount to a full suspension of Syria's membership from the bloc. 
It was, however, the strongest action that the Arab League has taken to curb the violence since protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule erupted in mid-March. 
Nabil Elaraby, the bloc's secretary-general, announced on Sunday that it would meet with representatives of Syrian groups opposed to Assad on Tuesday, but said it was too soon for the Cairo-based body to consider recognising the Syrian opposition as the legitimate authority of the country.
"Recognition of them as a government? Maybe it is a bit premature to discuss that," he said. 
Opposition sources, meanwhile, told Al Jazeera that four people were killed and more than 20 others injured on Sunday while holding anti-government protests in Hama, Syria's fourth largest city.
Syrian reaction
At the official level, Syria denounced the Arab League's decision as "illegal and a violation of the organisation's charter".
Yussef Ahmad, Syria's envoy to the Arab League, insisted his country had already implemented an Arab peace deal that it previously agreed to, and accused the US of ordering the suspension.
He also charged that the regional bloc was trying to "provoke foreign intervention in Syria, as was the case in Libya".
"It was clear [the decision] was decided through a US order," Ahmad said, accusing the Arab League of working to an "American agenda".
On the ground, local residents said hundreds of men, shouting slogans in support of Assad and armed with sticks and knives, broke into the Saudi embassy in Abu Rummaneh, three blocks away from Assad's offices in one of the most heavily policed areas of Damascus.
They smashed windows and ransacked some areas, prompting the Saudi foreign ministry strongly to condemn the attack and hold the Syrian authorities responsible for protecting its interests.
Syrian security forces confronted the protesters with batons and tear gas but were unable to stop a group from breaking into the Qatari embassy and bringing down the Qatari flag, replacing it with the Syrian flag.
Reports said crowds also attacked the French and Turkish consulates in the coastal city of Latakia.
France on Sunday condemned the attack and summoned the Syrian ambassador for an explanation.
"Attempted attacks on France's honorary consulate in Latakia and the detached chancery in Aleppo by organised groups of demonstrators to which security forces did not react are unacceptable," the French foreign ministry said.
"Syria's ambassador to France [Lamia Shakkour] is summoned to the foreign ministry for a reminder of Syria's international obligations.
"The Syrian regime is held entirely responsible for these excesses and will have to give an explanation."
Meanwhile, Turkey reacted by ordering the evacuation of all non-essential diplomatic personnel from Syria. Only Ambassador Omer Onhon and diplomatic staff remained behind.
Arab League deadline
The developments in Damascus came after Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister, announced on Saturday that the Arab League would "suspend Syrian delegations' activities in [the group's] meetings" and implement "economic and political sanctions against the Syrian government".
The Arab League also called on its member states to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus and threatened to recognise the Syrian National Council (SNC), a broad-based opposition group, if Syria did not implement an Arab peace deal that it previously agreed to.
Sheikh Hamad said that 19 member countries voted in favour of the measure, while Lebanon and Yemen objected and Iraq abstained.
Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Cairo, said: "The Arab League could have imposed immediate sanctions or suspended Syria outright, but surprisingly did not do that. It wanted to send a very strong message to Syria."
Sheikh Hamad said: "We were criticised for taking a long time but this was out of our concern for Syria. We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions.
"We are calling all Syrian opposition parties to a meeting at the Arab League headquarters to agree a unified vision for the transitional period."
For months now, Syria has experienced daily clashes between security forces and protesters, and human-rights groups say the Assad government has intensified its crackdown, especially in the flashpoint city of Homs.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

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