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Arab League stops short of suspending Syria

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi, left, and Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim meet Sunday to discuss the possibility of suspending Syria from the Arab League.

Associated Press

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi, left, and Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim meet Sunday to discuss the possibility of suspending Syria from the Arab League.

CAIRO — Gulf countries seeking to suspend Syria's membership to the Arab League over its bloody crackdown on protesters failed to gain enough support Sunday to push the measure through, reflecting deep divisions among the body's 22 nations.

Arab foreign ministers met at the group's Cairo headquarters behind closed doors for an initial three-hour session without Syria's representative, then took a break and reconvened for talks with Syrian diplomats that lasted late into the night.

Just after the meeting with Syrian diplomats, Qatar Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim made no mention of a possible suspension and instead gave Syria a 15-day deadline to enact a cease-fire.

The Arab League also agreed to create a committee led by Qatar to oversee the situation in Syria and said a national dialogue between Syrian officials and the opposition would take place at the league's headquarters in Cairo. "A national dialogue in 15 days is one of the most important decisions of the day," bin Jassim said.

To suspend Syria's membership, at least two-thirds of the members would have had to support the measure. A bloc of six Persian Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, was leading the push for the measure along with recognition of the opposition leadership, the Syrian National Council, the Associated Press reported.

Suspension of an Arab League member is rare. Although the move likely would have no direct, tangible impact on Syria, it would constitute a major blow to President Bashar Assad's embattled regime by stripping Damascus of its Arab support and further deepening its isolation.

The national dialogue is to include members of the opposition from outside Syria as well as inside. If the meeting and a cease-fire do not take place within the allotted time frame, the Arab League will meet again in an emergency session, participants said.

Libyans bulldoze Gadhafi compound

Libyan revolutionary forces bulldozed the green walls surrounding Moammar Gadhafi's main Tripoli compound on Sunday, saying it was time "to tear down this symbol of tyranny." The sprawling, fortresslike compound known as Bab al-Aziziya has long been hated by Libyans who feared even to walk nearby during Gadhafi's more than four decades in power. Its capture was seen as a turning point in the civil war as revolutionaries overran the capital in late August.

Egypt's leaders criticized: A top Egyptian reform leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Sunday that the ruling military council has too much power but no experience governing. He expressed the growing frustration of many a week after more than 20 Christians were killed when the military broke up their protest in Cairo with force.

Protesters killed in Yemen: Security forces opened fire on protesters seeking the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, killing at least seven. Saleh charged that foreign diplomats have been misled by the country's opposition and are conveying false information about the situation in Yemen.

Times wires

Arab League stops short of suspending Syria 10/16/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 16, 2011 11:33pm]
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