News / Middle East

Syria Rejects Arab League Call for End to 'Bloodshed'

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby attends the body's meeting at its headquarters in Cairo, August 27, 2011
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby attends the body's meeting at its headquarters in Cairo, August 27, 2011
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Syria has rejected an Arab League statement calling for an end to deadly violence that has shaken the country, as the government cracks down on a five-month-old pro-democracy uprising.

In a statement issued early Sunday after an emergency meeting in Cairo, the Arab bloc called for a stop to "bloodshed" in Syria "before it is too late." It also said Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby is ready to visit Syria to try to resolve the crisis, but did not say when the trip would happen.

Syria responded with a protest note accusing the Arab League of violating diplomatic protocol and saying Damascus regards the statement as "non-existent."

The United Nations has said more than 2,200 people have been killed since March, when protesters began calling for reforms and an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.

Syrian rights activists say security forces killed at least four people late Saturday into Sunday, in the latest crackdown on opposition activity. They say two people were killed in the northern province of Idlib, one in the southern province of Dara'a and one in the Damascus suburb of Harasta.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Sunday that Ankara has lost confidence in Syria, its neighbor to the south. Turkish state news agency Anatolia quoted Gul as saying the situation has reached a stage in which any gestures by the Syrian government will be "too little, too late."

Syrian state news agency SANA says Assad authorized a new media law Sunday, requiring the government to lift most restrictions on local journalists and allow independent news organizations to operate.

The Syrian government has barred most foreign journalists from working in the country, making it difficult to verify reports of the unrest. Syrian opposition activists have dismissed Assad's previous promises of reforms as meaningless while the government crackdown continues.

Syrian border authorities also stopped three opposition activists from crossing into neighboring Lebanon Sunday to participate in a televised discussion on the Syrian uprising. The activists criticized the government for blocking their trip. The three were Michel Kilo, Loay Hussein and Fayez Sara.

In another development, Syrian rights activists say security forces attacked protesters who gathered at a mosque in the Damascus suburb of Kfar Sousa on Saturday, wounding several people including the imam.

Syria's interior ministry issued a warning Sunday to Damascus residents not to respond to calls on social media for more demonstrations in the capital.

The Syrian government denies reports of protests in the capital and blames the country's recent violence on what it calls armed gangs and terrorists backed by foreign conspirators.

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

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