BBC World Service

Syria misses Arab League deadline

Jeremy Hobson Nov 25, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Well now to Syria, where more than 3500 people have been killed during months of anti-government protests. And this morning the government is facing new economic sanctions after ignoring a deadline from the Arab League of 21 nations to allow international observers into the country.

For more, we turn to the BBC’s Jim Muir, who has been following the situation. He joins us from Beirut, Lebanon. Good morning.

Jim Muir: Good morning.

Hobson: So the deadline has passed, no word from Syria — what happens now?

Muir: Well, unless something does happen from Syria — a kind of last minute, or, in fact, after the last minute, acceptance of the deal — the Arab League would go ahead — probably Saturday, possibly Sunday — with a meeting of its economic council, which would impose sanctions on Syria.

The ideas being bandied around are things like a commercial flight ban; that would obviously really hit the Syrians psychologically by isolating them in terms of air contact. Also, freezing dealings with the Syrian Central Bank and other institutions on the financial front and freezing the assets of Syrian individuals in the Arab world.

Hobson: And Jim, what difference does it make that these sanctions would be coming from the Arab League and not from, say, the U.S. or Europe?

Muir: Well, of course, this is the kind of thing that was the precursor to the NATO action in Libya. So from the regime’s point of view, it would be an important kind of Arab platform stacked up against it. The two steps they’ve gone through now — one has been the suspension of Syria’s membership in the Arab League, which is like saying you don’t belong to this club anymore, isolating it. And now, economic sanctions — assuming the do go ahead — it does in a way open the way to some kind of international intervention.

Hobson: The BBC’s Jim Muir, in Beirut, Lebanon. Thank you so much.

Muir: You’re most welcome.

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