Syria says Arab League sanctions are "economic war"
Syria on Monday hit back at the Arab League over its unprecedented announcement of sanctions, calling the measures "a declaration of economic war", DPA reported
In a first reaction to the measures unveiled by the 22-country league at the weekend, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told a press conference in Damascus the sanctions amounted to "a punishment" for all Syrians.
During talks in Cairo, the league agreed to halt transactions with the Syrian central bank, freeze government assets and suspend investments in Syria after al-Assad's regime ignored a deadline to implement a peace plan.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe welcomed the punitive measures, saying they would "isolate the Syrian regime a little more."
"Its days are numbered, it's absolutely clear," he told France Info radio.
His comments came as the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva accused Syria of numerous crimes against humanity in its crackdown on the eight-month campaign of protests.
An expert panel appointed by the council found evidence of widespread detentions, torture and rape as well as shoot-to-kill orders and violence against children.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi said the bloc would reconsider the sanctions if Syria implemented a plan to stop the crackdown, which has raised fears Syria is sliding into civil war.
"Signing the deal would lead to a review of all the measures which the League council took," Al-Arabi wrote in a letter to al-Moallem.
However, the violence reportedly continued on Monday, with activists saying 13 people had been killed by security forces in the flashpoint city of Homs, where hundreds of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets, chanting "al-Moallem is a liar like his boss."
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of government supporters held separate protests in Damascus and in several other cities, condemning the Arab League sanctions and voicing support for al-Assad.
During his press conference, al-Moallem accused the Arab League of closing "all windows" of negotiations with Syria and of turning a blind eye on "terrorist gangs," whom he accused of murdering government supporters.
He also played a video, which he claimed showed people loyal to the government being killed and thrown into a river or being hanged by angry armed protesters.
"I offer these ugly pictures to the Arab League members," he said.
Syria has barred journalists and human rights organizations from entering the country since the uprising began in mid-March, making it difficult to verify such reports.
Al-Assad's regime has repeatedly blamed the unrest on "terrorist gangs" financed by the West and some Arab countries, namely Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, a western diplomat in Beirut told dpa that the European Union was planning new economic sanctions on Syria.
The new measures would include freezing funding for trade projects, excluding food and medicine, and banning Syrian banks from opening branches in the EU or investing in European banks, the diplomat said.