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Arab League gives Syria deadline to stop violence

Syrians wave national flags and shout slogans in support of President Bashar al-Assad's regime during a rally in central Damascus on November 16, 2011 against the latest decision by the Arab League to suspend Syria's membership in the 22-nation Arab body.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: There's more pressure today on the Syrian government from neighboring countries. The Arab League has given Syria three days to end the violence against protesters and allow monitors into the country, or it's going to impose heavy economic sanctions. Syria's neighbor Turkey has been pushing for those sanctions.

The BBC's Jonathan Head is with us now from Istanbul with the latest. Hey, Jonathan.

JONATHAN HEAD: Hi, how you doing.

CHIOTAKIS:I'm doing well. What kinds of economic sanctions are being talked about now and will they have any impact?

HEAD: Well, Turkey's in a position to hit Syria quite hard because it's one of its biggest training partners. Trade was worth $2.5 billion last year -- much bigger than a few years ago -- so they could hit various sectors of the Syrian economy. They're talking about cutting off electricity supplies; they export perhaps about ten percent of Syria's needs, but most people think Syria could make that up.

They could also hit cooperation in the oil sector, and that's something other Arab countries are looking at. But realistically, nobody think these sanctions are going to change the direction of the regime of President Assad immediately. I think this is more of an expression of displeasure and a demonstration of its international isolation.

CHIOTAKIS:You've got the Arab League coming out against Assad, and others now. Is this the last straw?

HEAD: I think it's the last straw for Syria's international position; although of course Iran remains a key supporter and the Russian government is still resisting stronger international action. But the country is very isolated, the government's very isolated. The key thing is whether international diplomacy can stop the conflicts, persuade the government to do some kind of deal -- or whether Syria slips into some a civil war, which frankly none of its neighbors can control.

CHIOTAKIS: The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istabul. Jonathan, thank you.

HEAD: Good to talk to you Steve.

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