Wary of Intervention, Arab League Suspends Syria Over Protester Deaths

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The Arab League is trying to be delicate, intervening to stop killing of anti-government protesters in Syria, without raising the specter of another European or American intervention.

In the immediate aftermath of the Arab League's vote — which gives the Syrian government four days to abide by a peace agreement or be suspended from participation in the league's activities — leaders of the multi-national group acknowledged that they acted in response to criticism, but promised they weren't providing a shortcut to another Western-backed military operation, as occurred in Libya.

"We were criticised for taking a long time but this was out of our concern for Syria," said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the foreign minister of Qatar, as quoted in The Guardian. "We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions."

The Associated Press reported that the Arab League leaders felt pressure not to allow U.S. or European forces to enable a regime-toppling effort, as they did with Col. Muammar Qaddafi. But continuing violence against protesters forced them to act. 

In a nod to concerns that the decision could pave the way to international intervention as occurred in Libya, bin Jassim stressed that "no one is talking about a no-fly zone, people are trying to mix up the cases. None of us is talking about this kind of decision."

Dozens of protesters outside had rallied for the decision, carrying placards reading "Freedom for the Syrian people" and "Arab leaders are garbage" as they chanted for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad. They were joined by demonstrators from Yemen, protesting violent government crackdowns in their country.

The decision comes as November is shaping up to be the bloodiest month yet in Syria's 8-month-old uprising. More than 250 Syrian civilians have been killed in the past 11 days as the regime besieges the rebellious city of Homs.

"No one is talking about a no-fly zone," bin Jassim said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.