Syria faces new sanctions after flouting an Arab League deadline to accept observers to monitor the unrest sweeping the country, which the UN says has killed at least 4000 people.
The latest standoff between Syria and the Arab League comes as the death toll from violence across the country on Saturday and Sunday rose to more than 40, and after the UN Human Rights Council accused Damascus of “gross violations” of human rights.
A senior Qatari official said on Sunday that Damascus 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 Qatari official said, however, that if Syrian officials “still want to sign, they can come tomorrow to Cairo”.
The Arab League ministerial committee late on Saturday gave Damascus until Sunday to allow an observer mission into the country and thereby avoid further sanctions.
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.
The national carrier Syrian Air will be affected by the flight reductions, while among the 19 officials banned from travel to Arab countries are the defence and interior ministers and other top intelligence officials.
President Bashar al-Assad’s brother, General Maher al-Assad, who heads the feared Fourth Armoured Division, and his cousin Rami Makhluf, a telecommunications tycoon, are also among those banned from travel.
The Arab panel also tasked a committee with drawing up a list of Syrian businessmen involved in financing the repression, ahead of slapping them with sanctions.
“This is a message to businessmen who have kept silent, so that they will choose what side to be on,” said Najib Ghadban, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, which represents most of Assad’s opponents.
An analyst in Damascus said chances were slim that the government would allow in observers under the conditions set by the Arab League. Syria says the conditions undermine its sovereignty.
The Arab League had on November 27 approved an initial wave of sweeping sanctions against Assad’s government over the crackdown, the first time that the bloc has enforced such punitive measures against a member state.
Those measures included an immediate freeze on transactions with Damascus and its central bank and of Syrian regime assets in Arab countries.
On the ground, three children aged 11, 14 and 16 and their father, were among 21 people killed on Sunday by security forces and pro-regime “shabiha” militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Twenty of those killed on Sunday died in the flashpoint central province of Homs, which has been at the forefront of the regime’s crackdown on dissidents, the Britain-based watchdog said.
Earlier it reported 11 civilians among 23 people killed on Saturday, most occurring in the northwestern province of Idlib, another focal point of anti-regime protests raging since March.