US: Arabs sending 'clear signal' to Syria

The Arab League has sent a clear signal that Syria's neighbors do not tolerate the deadly crackdown on dissent by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, US officials said Monday.

"It's a clear, unequivocal signal that Assad's neighbors in the region have had enough... of his behavior and of his regime's targeting and killing of civilians," State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters.

The 22-member League on Sunday agreed sweeping sanctions against Damascus, including an immediate ban on transactions with the Syrian government and central bank and a freeze on Syrian government assets in Arab countries.

Further measures including a ban on Syrian officials visiting any Arab country and the suspension of flights are to be implemented at a date fixed at a meeting next week.

"We commend the Arab League for taking the decision to move to implement its own set of sanctions. We think that that's going to continue to apply the kind of pressure that we've been seeking to apply on Assad," Toner said.

Toner, in reply to a question, said he believed the new sanctions would have an effect on Syria even though Arab neighbors Lebanon and Iraq voted against them.

He reminded Lebanon, where Syrian ally Hezbollah wields great influence, that Arab League resolutions are binding.

Toner said international pressure was building against Syria with the latest Arab sanctions on top of "very strong sanctions" imposed by both the European Union and the United States.

"We are continuing to look for other nations to initiate similar sanctions," he added.

"It's not going to be something that happens overnight, but... we believe that this kind of building pressure is going to eventually bring about Assad's stepping down and allowing for a peaceful democratic transition to take place."

Both China and Russia, two of the five permanent veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, have opposed sanctions against Syria.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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