Arab League calls for cease-fire in Syria

Oct. 17, 2011 at 11:14 AM

CAIRO, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The Arab League stopped short of suspending Syria but called for a cease-fire in the country and a meeting between the government and opposition within 15 days.

The BBC reported Qatar Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, chairman of an Arab League meeting, announced the league approved a resolution to contact the Syrian government and opposition to bring about "national dialogue within the seat of the Arab League and under its guidance within 15 days."

It is to include the league's 22 Persian Gulf countries and members of the opposition from inside and outside Syria, Gulf Daily News, Bahrain, reported Monday. If the meeting isn't held and a cease-fire not achieved within 15 days, the league will hold another emergency session, the News said.

All members endorsed the resolution, calling for the meeting at the league's headquarters in Cairo, though Syria expressed reservations.

Syria routinely blames outsiders for the violence, which the opposition denies.

Arab foreign ministers first met for 3 hours without Syria's representative before talks with Syrian diplomats.

Some delegates called for Syria's suspension but the move did not receive the necessary backing from two-thirds of the members.

The league also decided to create a committee led by Qatar to oversee the situation in Syria.

The United Nations said last week at least 3,000 people, including 187 children, had been killed since demonstrations against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in March.

Syria faces growing international criticism and pressure. Saudi Arabia and other gulf states have withdrawn ambassadors from Syria and the United States and European Union have imposed economic sanctions. Longtime Syria ally Turkey has criticized Assad's use of force and plans economic sanctions.

The Syrian Arab News Agency published an article Monday saying the call for a meeting between the government and the opposition was a conspiracy against Syria.

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