Arab League discusses Syria sanctions

Arab League finance leaders are holding talks to discuss imposing sanctions on the Syrian government after Damascus ignored a deadline to allow an observer mission into the country.

Sense of alarm growing over crackdown on dissidents

Syrians living in Turkey shout slogans as they protest against the government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in front of the Syrian consulate in Istanbul. (Reuters)

Arab League finance leaders were holding talks Saturday to decide which political and economic sanctions to impose on the Syrian government after Damascus ignored a deadline to allow an observer mission into the country.

The meeting in Cairo comes after Syria missed Friday's deadline to approve entry for about 500 Arab League observers, a measure aimed at ending a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The crackdown on dissidents is reported to be getting more brutal by the day, but President Bashar al-Assad's regime continues to defy the Arab League ultimatum.

A UN human rights panel expressed alarm this week at reports it received of security forces in Syria torturing children. The Geneva-based Committee Against Torture says it has received "numerous, consistent and substantiated reports" of widespread abuse in the country.

"This panel reviews each country's record every four years, but it has taken the unusual step of issuing a spontaneous demand to the Syrian government to explain its actions," CBC freelance contributor Dominic Valitis reported from London.

The UN estimates some 3,500 people have died in the regime's crackdown since the protests began last March.

The sanctions could include halting flights and imposing a freeze on financial dealings and assets.

But Syrian Economy Minister Mohammed Nidal al-Shaar told Agence-France Press he does not  expect all members of the 22-member bloc to participate in sanctions.

Both Lebanon and Yemen have already indicated they will not enforce any economic sanctions against Syria.



The Assad family has ruled Syria for 41 years. Bashar al-Assad inherited power in 2000 after his father's death.