In a stinging rebuke of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Arab League voted (November 12) to suspend Syria if his regime fails to take immediate steps to honor a league-brokered plan it has thus far refused to implement.

"Syria is a dear country for all of us, and it pains us to make this decision," Sheik Hamad bin Jassim, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, said to reporters after the meeting. "We hope there will be a brave move from Syria to stop the violence and begin a real dialogue toward real reform."

He suggested that Arab nations withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus, the Syrian capital, a step that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have already taken.

Syria's representative to the Arab League, Yousef Ahmad, responded by saying the League’s decision was "not worth the ink it was written with."

Earlier in the week Syria received another blow from the African Union which called on Damascus to yield to public demands for democracy for the sake of peace and stability in the country and throughout the region.

Syria's Foreign DeputyAU Commission Chairman Jean Ping, made the comment following discussions in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, with Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Fayssal Mikdad who had called for African solidarity in the face of widespread international condemnation of Syria’s violent crackdown on citizens seeking democratic reforms.

In his briefing to the AU, Mikdad had called for closer relations between the Arab and the African peoples on all fronts, including social and economic fields. Ping agreed that the two regions needed closer working relations but held firm in his view that Syrian authorities must respect the wishes of the people.

Syria’s neighbor Lebanon, meanwhile is facing mounting pressure to protect Syrian dissidents in Lebanon with opposition groups accusing the government in Beirut of being a pawn to the regime in Damascus.

The United Nations estimates that 3,500 people have been killed in almost eight months of bloodshed in Syria.


(Photo © DR)