- A U.N. report says Syrian forces have committed "gross violations of human rights"
- Foreign minister: "Syria is self-sufficient and these sanctions will not affect us as they think"
- The sanctions target Syria's people, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem says
- The Arab League's secretary-general says the sanctions are not meant to harm citizens
Syria's foreign minister decried Arab League sanctions against his nation Monday, accusing the organization of targeting Syrian citizens.
"The intended victims are the Syrian people," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said from Damascus.
His remarks came a day after foreign ministers from 19 Arab League countries voted to slap economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, agreeing to stop dealing with Syria's central bank, to ban high-profile Syrian officials from visiting Arab nations and to freeze the assets of the Syrian government. Iraq and Lebanon abstained from the voting, officials said.
Moallem accused members of the Arab League of trying to escalate the situation to a broader international level, rather than following agreements reached with Syrian officials.
"If you think you can undermine the Syrian regime, you are deluded," he said.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby said a committee examining how to implement the sanctions will focus on protecting civilians while targeting the government.
"The committee will take into consideration the social effects of signing on to these sanctions so that it does not have negative effects on the daily lives of the Syrian citizens," he said.
Pro-regime protesters filled public spaces in Syria Monday to condemn Arab League sanctions and support President Bashar al-Assad, according to Syrian state media.
The SANA news agency published photos of Saba Bahrat Square in Syria's capital, Damascus, packed with supporters, many waving flags. SANA reported similar pro-government demonstrations in other Syrian cities.
The uprising against al-Assad began in February with limited protests and widened in mid-March, when peaceful protests in Daraa were met with violent suppression. In the following months, protests have continued across the country, with protesters demanding al-Assad's ouster and democratic elections.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria said that 18 people, including two children, were killed Monday. The group coordinates and documents anti-government demonstrations.
On November 8, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights estimated that government forces had killed at least 3,500 civilians. A U.N. report released Monday said Syrian security forces have committed "gross violations of human rights" since March.
According to the U.N. independent international commission on Syria's assessment, evidence "documents patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children's rights."
The analysis was based on interviews with 223 victims and witnesses, but observers were not allowed access to the country, the report said.
Syria's government has consistently blamed armed gangs for the violence and said security forces are protecting the people.
CNN is unable to independently confirm events occurring inside of Syria, because the government does not allow journalists free access to the country.
"The Arabic Syrian military, which we are all proud of, has given martyrs in order to protect the life of civilians," Moallem said Monday.
Moallem accused the news media of inciting anti-government sentiment and said Arab League officials were ignoring the presence of armed groups and terrorists in Syria. He showed reporters a lengthy video showing multiple mutilated, bloody bodies and said armed groups were responsible.
He repeatedly criticized the Arab League's sanctions, but said they would have a limited impact. Syria has already withdrawn about 95% of its foreign assets, he said, and its people will persevere against adversity.
"Syria is self-sufficient and these sanctions will not affect us as they think. We wear what we make and we eat what we plant so there is no worry on the livelihood of the average Syrian citizen when it comes to the Arab League sanctions," he said.