Arab League condemns Syria for first time

DEIR AL-ZOUR, Syria, June 15 (UPI) -- The Arab League condemned Syria's violence for the first time, as Syrian tanks ringed three more cities in a widened crackdown against pro-democracy protesters.

Syria angrily denounced the league's condemnation, calling it "politically motivated."


Outgoing league Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the league's member states were "worried, angry and actively monitoring" the Syrian bloodshed and warned, "Continuation of the status quo could lead to what may not be desired ... for Syria."

Syrian league envoy Youssef Ahmad branded Moussa a traitor for recommending what Ahmad alleged was the same sort of military intervention the league endorsed in Libya three months ago.

Syria is a founding member of the league.

At the same time, Iran heatedly repudiated U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's assertion Iran was "supporting" Syria's "vicious assaults on peaceful protesters and military actions against its own cities."


An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the U.S. criticism was part of a plot against the "line of resistance" against Israel.

Clinton Tuesday linked Syria's crackdown with the second anniversary of Iran's deadly crackdown on reformists following the widely disputed June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, added to the international pressure on Syria in a phone call, pressing President Bashar Assad, a friend and ally, to end the violence and implement reforms, Turkey's official Anadolu Agency reported.

The agency, also known as the Anatolian Agency, did not say how Assad responded. The Assad government had no comment.

Fleeing the crackdown, nearly 9,000 Syrian refugees, more than half of them children, crushed into four Turkish Red Crescent camps just inside the border, and Turkish authorities might have to provide more camps to handle the influx, Anadolu said.

Turkish officials have called the refugee flood a humanitarian crisis.

Syria widened its crackdown on protesters as dozens of tanks from the Syrian military's feared 4th division, commanded by Assad brother Maher Assad, were positioned Wednesday to move into the large northeastern city of Deir al-Zour, on the Euphrates River, 280 miles northeast of Damascus.


The same military division has been in control of the town of Jisr al-Shughour since Friday, forcing most remaining people in the besieged enclave to flee to Turkey.

Deir al-Zour is the site of some of the biggest protests of the 3-month-old anti-Assad uprising.

About two dozen tanks and 15 to 20 armored personnel carriers also surrounded Abu Kamal, another Euphrates River city with powerful tribes and economic grievances straddling the border with Iraq, residents said.

Demonstrators hurled epithets as the tanks arrived, asking why the Syrian military was fighting its own people and not Israel, a 27-year-old protester told The New York Times.

The United States attacked Abu Kamal in 2008 as part of the Iraq war, killing eight people who Syria asserted were civilians. U.S. military sources said at the time the covert CIA paramilitary helicopter attack sought a foreign-fighter network traveling through Syria to join the Iraqi insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

In addition, an unknown number of Syrian tanks encircled the northwestern Syrian city of Maarat al-Nouman, where protesters reportedly burned government buildings during the weekend, The Washington Post reported.

Most phone communication in the northwestern city of Ariha, near Turkey, has been cut since Monday morning, human rights groups said.


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