News / Middle East

Assad Supporters Protest Arab League Vote

Pro-Syrian regime protesters, carry a giant Syrian flag during a demonstration against the Arab League decision to suspend Syria, in Damascus, Syria, November 13, 2011.
Pro-Syrian regime protesters, carry a giant Syrian flag during a demonstration against the Arab League decision to suspend Syria, in Damascus, Syria, November 13, 2011.

Supporters of Syria's government are rallying in major cities in a second day of protests against an Arab League decision to suspend Syria's membership, while Syria has called for an emergency meeting of the regional organization.

Syrian state television broadcast images of large pro-government crowds in Damascus, Aleppo and other cities on Sunday. Many of the demonstrators waved Syrian flags and held pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Arab League voted a day earlier to suspend Syria beginning on Wednesday if the Assad government continues to ignore the bloc's call to engage in dialogue with the opposition and end a violent crackdown on the eight-month-old revolt.

The Syrian government on Sunday called for an urgent Arab League meeting to address the crisis before its suspension takes effect.

Several nations have condemned the Assad loyalists who stormed the Damascus embassies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey late Saturday after the Arab League vote.  Saudi Arabia and Qatar were among the 18 league members that voted to suspend Syria from the 22-member body.

Turkey, while not a league member, has spoken out strongly against its neighbor's deadly crackdown against protesters.  The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Syria's charge d'affaires on Sunday to protest the attacks on its diplomatic missions. It also started to evacuate the families of Turkish diplomats in Syria.

Saudi Arabia condemned the assault on its embassy in Damascus and said it holds Syrian authorities responsible for the security of all Saudi interests in the country.

The official Saudi Press Agency said protesters threw stones at the embassy building, smashed windows and ransacked offices. A crowd also broke through the gates at Qatar's embassy, removing the country's flag and replacing it with a Syrian one.

The French news agency says quotes a diplomat who says demonstrators also tried to enter the French embassy in Syria but did not succeed.

Syria agreed to the Arab League plan for dialogue on November 2 but more than 150 people have been killed since then.  The violence has included attacks by the security forces on anti-Assad protesters and fighting between Syria's military and army defectors.

The Arab League vote to suspend Syria drew praise from the United Nations, the United States and Britain. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the move "strong and courageous," adding the world body is "ready to provide the relevant support when requested."

U.S. President Barack Obama said the Arab League decision increases the diplomatic isolation of a government that has "flagrantly failed to keep its commitments" and "systematically violated human rights and repressed peaceful protests."

Syria's ambassador to the league, Youssef Ahmed, rejected the vote as illegal and contrary to the organization's charter. He said the Syrian government remains committed to fulfilling the Arab League peace plan.

The U.N. human rights agency says at least 3,500 people have been killed in Syria in connection with anti-Assad protests since March. Syria blames much of the deadly violence on foreign-backed "terrorists" and extremists.

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

 

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