Times 2

Arab League prepares for Syria sanctions

AMMAN, Nov. 26 (Reuters) - Arab officials will prepare plans for sanctions against Syria today over its failure to let Arab League monitors oversee an initiative aimed at ending a violent crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

Damascus missed a Friday deadline to sign an agreement under which the Arab League planned to send observers to Syria, where the United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed since the start of the uprising in March.

Despite Syria's pledge this month to withdraw its army from urban areas and let in the monitors, the violence has continued, prompting reprisals from the Arab League, stinging rebukes from Turkey and French proposals for humanitarian intervention.

Damascus says regional powers have helped incite the violence, which it blames on armed groups targeting civilians and its security forces.

Activists said government forces shot dead at least four demonstrators in Damascus on Friday who were appealing for foreign intervention to stop the crackdown. Two other civilians were killed in raids on their homes, they said.

The Syrian military said 10 personnel, including six pilots, were killed in an attack on an air force base on Thursday and that the incident proved foreign involvement in the eight-month revolt against Assad.

Arab ministers had warned that unless Syria agreed to let the monitors in, they could consider imposing sanctions including suspending flights to Syria, stopping dealings with the central bank, freezing Syrian government bank accounts and halting financial dealings.

They could also decide to stop commercial trade with the Syrian government “with the exception of strategic commodities so as not to impact the Syrian people”, the ministers said.

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