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In unprecedented step, Arab League sanctions Syria

BEIRUT, Lebanon — In an unprecedented move against an Arab nation, the Arab League on Sunday approved economic sanctions on Syria to pressure it to end a deadly suppression of an 8-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.

But even as world leaders abandon Assad, the regime has refused to ease a military assault on dissent that has killed more than 3,500 people. On Sunday, Syria slammed the sanctions as a betrayal of Arab solidarity and insisted a foreign conspiracy was behind the revolt, all but assuring more bloodshed will follow.

The sanctions are among the clearest signs yet of the isolation Syria is suffering because of the crackdown. Damascus has long boasted of being a powerhouse of Arab nationalism, but Assad has been abandoned by some of his closest allies and now his Arab neighbors.

At a news conference in Cairo, Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said 19 of the league's 22 member nations approved a series of tough punishments that include immediately cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank, halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria and freezing government assets.

Other steps, including halting flights and imposing travel bans on some, as-yet unnamed Syrian officials, will come later after a committee reviews them.

"The Syrian people are being killed, but we don't want this. Every Syrian official should not accept killing even one person," bin Jassim said. "Power is worth nothing while you stand as an enemy to your people."

Iraq and Lebanon — important trading partners for Syria — abstained from the vote, along with Algeria. The vote came after Syria dismissed an Arab League deadline to agree to allow observers into the country as part of a peace deal Syria agreed to this month to end the crisis.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said the bloc will reconsider the sanctions if Syria carries out the Arab-brokered plan, which includes pulling tanks from the streets and ending violence against civilians.

The regime, however, has shown no signs of easing its crackdown, and activist groups said more than 30 people were killed Sunday. The death toll was impossible to confirm. Syria has banned most foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting inside the country.

The Arab League move is part of a growing wave of international pressure pushing Syria to end its crackdown. The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions, the league has suspended Syria's membership and world leaders increasingly are calling on Assad to go.

In unprecedented step, Arab League sanctions Syria 11/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, November 27, 2011 8:10pm]

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