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November 28, 2011

Damascus Mulls Arab League Sanctions

by Peter Cobus

Syria says it is considering ways to deal with sanctions imposed by the Arab League.

In a Tuesday news conference, the country's information minister Adnan Mahmoud said the country is "self-sufficient" and has a "stockpile" of food and basic supplies.

The state-run news agency SANA says the minister commented after a Cabinet meeting on the league's sanctions, which were announced Sunday. There was no immediate word on what procedures Damascus is considering.

Sanctions could have far reaching impacts on trade and banking.

On Sunday, the 22-member league imposed unprecedented penalties that include asset freezes and travel bans. The league took the action after Syria failed to accept a plan to allow international monitors to enter the country.

Syria is facing mounting foreign pressure to end its deadly crackdown on dissent, but violence has continued to escalate.

An activist with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that government forces have publicly executed 22 activists in a Damascus suburb and arrested about 600 people. The opposition group says the suburb had been under siege since Sunday.

Meanwhile, the United States and Germany say the U.N. Security Council must respond to Syria's crackdown, after U.N. investigators detailed grave rights abuses they say were ordered by the "highest levels" of President Bashar al-Assad's government.

On Monday, a U.N. commission investigating allegations of human rights violations in Syria accused government troops of "summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, sexual violence, as well as violations of children's rights."

Turkey said Tuesday that it may shift its Middle East trade routes to go through Iraq -- cutting out Syria as a transit country if unrest there worsens and embargoes against Damascus go into effect.

Also Tuesday, Saudi Arabia urged its citizens to leave Syria because of mounting unrest.

In another development, EU foreign ministers will vote Thursday on proposals to further restrict trade and economic dealings with Damascus.

The United Nations said in early November that more than 3,500 people have been killed since March in connection with the uprising.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.