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Arab League proposes sanctions against Syria, including freezing assets

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:10 PM EST, Sat November 26, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 29 civilians, including 4 children, are killed Saturday, an opposition group says
  • NEW: 25 Syrian army and security forces are laid to rest, official media reports
  • NEW: State media says proposed sanctions are "unprecedented" and "target" Syrians
  • The measures include banning flights to and from Syria and visits by Syrian officials

(CNN) -- Arab League finance ministers recommended Saturday that economic sanctions be levied against the Syrian government for its part in a bloody, months-long crackdown on civilian demonstrators, a senior Arab League official told CNN.

State-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) called the move an "unprecedented procedure (that) contradicts the rules of the economic and trade cooperation among the Arab countries and targets the Syrian people."

Arab League foreign ministers from the regional alliance will meet at 11 a.m. Sunday in Cairo (4 a.m. ET) to consider whether to adopt the proposal, the league official said.

Damascus had failed to respond to a Friday deadline for it to allow Arab League observers into the Middle Eastern country to monitor the government's response to civil unrest.

"The Syrians responded with more requests to amendments to the protocol; they did not reject or accept," a senior Arab League diplomat said.

The slate of sanctions proposed Saturday in Cairo -- which were opposed by Algeria and Iraq -- include barring any private or commercial airlines from the league's 22 member states from flying into or out of Syria.

In addition, all assets belonging to the Syrian government and its officials would be frozen so they couldn't be accessed, and Syrian officials would not be allowed to visit Arab League countries.

Pictures on SANA's website on Saturday showed people packed in the city of Lattakia, reportedly to decry "the Arab League decisions and foreign interference in the Syrian internal affairs."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said Syria risked international isolation if it continued along its present path -- adding that the reported violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests could not be tolerated.

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"Syria has to make a decision," he said in Istanbul alongside his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi. "It will either continue this crackdown policy against its people and become isolated more and more, or it will say yes to this well-intentioned Arab League proposal, sign this protocol and observers will monitor the situation on the ground by going to all Syrian cities."

Meanwhile, more violence was reported in Syria on Saturday, with the activist group Local Coordination Committees of Syria claiming that at least 29 civilians -- among them, four children -- had been killed.

Twenty-two deaths occurred in Homs, as "big military reinforcements" equipped with eight troop carriers and four tanks allegedly reached the city. In addition, three were reported killed in Hama, two in Deir Ezzor, and one each in the Damascus suburbs of Kanaker and Idlib, said the group, which organizes and documents anti-government protests.

State-run SANA, meanwhile, reported that 25 army and security force members were buried Saturday.

"The martyrs were killed in the line of duty by the armed terrorist groups in the governorates of Damascus Countryside, Homs and Hama," that report said.

"The families of the martyrs expressed pride in their son's martyrdom, ... stressing that Syria will remain steadfast in the face of the conspiracy which targets its unity and stability. They said that the Syrian people will overcome this ordeal through national unity, and that the blood of the martyrs will protect Syria and make it stronger in the face of challenges."

CNN cannot independently verify reports from either side, since Syria's government has limited access to international news organizations.

Since March, protesters in cities across the country have been demanding President Bashar al-Assad's ouster and democratic elections.

The United Nations estimated earlier this month that more than 3,500 Syrians have died in the subsequent government crackdown, said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Al-Assad's government has consistently blamed armed gangs for the violence.

Adding to the pressure on Damascus, the United Nations Committee Against Torture said Friday it is "deeply concerned about gross and pervasive human rights violations in Syria," which are allegedly taking place "in a context of impunity."

"Of particular concern are reports referring to children who have suffered torture and mutilation while detained; as well as cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; arbitrary detention by police forces and the military; and enforced and involuntary disappearances," said Claudio Grossman, who heads the expert panel.

Reliable sources indicate the abuses "are allegedly conducted under direct orders from public authorities, at their instigation or with their consent or acquiescence," Grossman said.

The committee has asked Syria to provide a special report by early March indicating that it is abiding by its obligations under the U.N. Convention against Torture, to which Syria is a signatory.

Journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

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