Arab League vote puts more pressure on Syria
The Arab League's vote to suspend Syria continued to send shock waves through the region Sunday.
Libya rivals clash: Two rival militias fought a sporadic gunbattle just west of Tripoli over the weekend, killing as many as 15 people and blocking traffic on the vital coastal road between the Libyan capital and the Tunisian border. Lethal rivalries have emerged among Libyan fighters who rose up to depose Moammar Gadhafi last month now that the common enemy is vanquished.
Yemen attacks: Yemeni government forces and allied tribesmen killed 10 extremists in attacks around the country Sunday, as a visiting United Nations envoy met with embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh to push for a solution to the political crisis in the Arab world's poorest nation, which is reeling from a nine-month popular uprising seeking to oust Saleh, who has been in power for 30 years.
Morocco demonstrations: Thousands of pro-democracy activists demonstrated in Morocco's largest city, calling for a boycott of parliamentary elections less than two weeks away. In response, the king amended the constitution to give up some of his powers and moved elections to Nov. 25.
Bahrain blames Iran: An alleged Iranian-linked terror cell had contact with the powerful Revolutionary Guard and planned attacks against high-profile sites, including the Saudi Embassy and a Gulf causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, authorities in Bahrain claimed Sunday. Bahrain's Sunni monarchy ruling the majority-Shiite country claims Shiite-dominated Iran wants to gain another foothold in the Arab world through unrest in the tiny nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. More than 35 people have been killed since protesters seeking greater rights began demonstrating nearly nine months ago.
Seattle Times news services
BEIRUT — The Arab League's vote to suspend Syria continued to send shock waves through the region Sunday, as Turkey decided to evacuate diplomatic families from Damascus, Syria; Saudi Arabia and Qatar condemned attacks on their embassies; and the official Syrian media claimed that millions of people demonstrated in support of President Bashar Assad.
The events seemed sure to deepen Syria's most pronounced isolation of the four decades of Assad family rule.
Several thousand Syrians attacked the embassies and consulates of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and France on Saturday evening, shortly after the Arab League announced its surprising decision to suspend Syria's membership for failing to end the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Turkey's evacuation and denunciations of the attacks by other countries set the stage for a tumultuous week in the uprising against the Assad government, which began in March.
The Arab League has invited Syrian opposition figures to Cairo on Tuesday in what seems to be a bid to close the ranks of an unwieldy group. If Syria does not relent in its crackdown, which the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people, the suspension will take effect Wednesday.
The Syrian government, meanwhile, called Sunday for an urgent Arab summit meeting and invited Arab League officials to visit Damascus for talks.
Pro-Assad crowds attacked the Turkish embassy in Damascus after Saturday's Arab League decision. The protesters chanted anti-Turkey slogans, hurled rocks and tried to force their way into the compound, Turkey's semiofficial Anatolian news agency reported. Also attacked were Turkish missions in the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Latakia.
Turkey, which has a border of more than 500 miles with Syria, is not an Arabic nation but supports protesters in Syria who call for Assad's ouster. Turkey also has provided refuge for Syrian dissidents, including army defectors operating along the border.
Pro-Assad groups enraged at the Arab League decision also attacked French missions in Aleppo and Latakia, prompting a diplomatic condemnation from Paris. France has pushed for an international rebuke of the Syrian government.
Opposition groups demanding Assad's resignation praised the league's decision and hoped it would expedite the departure of Assad, who has ruled Syria since 2000. He was elected after the death of his father, Hafez Assad, who had ruled Syria for three decades.
The Assad government maintains that terrorists are behind the violence and have killed more than 1,000 security personnel.
Anti-Assad activists reported that at least 23 more people were killed Sunday in Syria, including 18 in the central provinces of Homs and Hama. The reports could not be independently verified.
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