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Syria ignores Arab deadline

Al Assad's brother and cousin among 19 officials facing travel ban, asset freeze

Gulf News

Dubai: Syria faced new sanctions after missing an Arab League deadline yesterday to allow observers to monitor the uprising.

A senior Qatari official was quoted as saying that Syria had asked for "new clarifications and further amendments to be made to the protocol which was proposed" to cover the deployment of the observer mission. But the Arab ministers had "refused."

The official said, however, that if Syrian officials "still want to sign, they can come tomorrow to Cairo."

Yesterday's deadline was announced in Doha by Qatari Prime Minister Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani, who also warned against the internationalisation of the Syrian crisis if Damascus did not heed the Arab call.

The meeting in Doha listed 19 Syrian officials it said would be banned from travel to Arab countries and whose assets would be frozen by those states.The panel also called for an embargo on the sale of Arab arms to Syria and cut by half the number of Arab flights into and out of Syria with effect from December 15.

Killings continue

Al Assad's brother Maher Al Assad, who heads the feared Fourth Armoured Division, and his cousin Rami Makhluf, a telecommunications tycoon, are among those slapped with travel bans.

"As Arabs we fear that if the situation continues things will get out of Arab control," Shaikh Hamad said.

"This is a message to businessmen who have kept silent, so that they will choose what side to be on," Najib Gadban, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, which represents most of Al Assad's opponents, was quoted as saying.

An analyst in Damascus said there were "very few chances" that the government would allow observers in under the conditions set by the Arab League. Syria says the conditions undermine its sovereignty.

In continued violence, three children aged 11, 14 and 16 were among eight people killed in Syria yesterday by security forces and shabiha militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The government yesterday decided to impose a 30 per cent tax on imports from Turkey.