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European, Arab leaders add to pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad

BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar Assad faced heightened economic and political pressure Monday as Europe imposed a new round of financial sanctions and King Abdullah of Jordan called on the embattled autocrat to step down.

Meanwhile, the Arab League, which on Saturday moved to suspend Syria because of its failure to implement a league-brokered peace deal, said it was preparing to send a delegation of up to 500 observers into Syria. Details were still being worked out with Damascus, the league's general secretary, Nabil al-Araby, told reporters in Cairo.

Syria has said it would welcome Arab League observers, but the Assad regime has remained defiant in the face of Arab demands that it halt violence against civilian protesters.

"The Syrian people should not be worried because Syria is not Libya," the country's foreign minister, Walid Moallem, said in a nationally televised news conference.

Moallem's comments demonstrated how the specter of Libya's longtime ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, and his ultimate fate — ousted by rebels with the help of Western air power and later killed in ignominious fashion — haunts Assad's administration, which is determined to avoid what it calls "foreign interference" in its crisis.

In a BBC interview, Jordan's Abdullah became the first Arab leader to say publicly that Assad should resign.

"If Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of political life."

The Syrian uprising began in March near the Jordanian border in the southwestern provincial city of Daraa. Opposition activists reported that at least 28 were killed Monday in the Daraa area, some in clashes between armed rebels and security forces at the city's northern entrance.

In Brussels, the European Union moved to impose additional economic sanctions, freezing more than a dozen Syrian accounts and suspending development loans from the European Investment Bank.

Washington has also imposed sanctions on Syria.

European, Arab leaders add to pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad 11/14/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2011 10:25pm]
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