CAIRO - The Arab League has agreed to slap new bunch of economic sanctions on Damascus after ignoring a second deadline to end its violent crackdown on opposition protesters.
Trade exchanges between Arab governments and the Syrian government are to be halted, except for those related to the strategic goods needed by the Syrian people, said the Arab finance ministers in a statement cited by Agence France Presse (AFP) late on Saturday, November 26.
The ministers gathered in Cairo for a crisis meeting on Syria for its bloody, months-long crackdown on civilian demonstrators.
Plunging Syria deeper into economic crisis and regional isolation, the new sanctions were drawn up by an Arab League economic committee in Cairo on Saturday and need to be ratified by foreign ministers meeting on Sunday before coming into force.
The new sanctions would include a travel ban on senior Syrian officials and a halt to commercial flights to the country.
Dealings with Syria's central bank would also be halted, but basic essentials needed by the Syrian people would be exempted from sanctions.
The package of sanctions proposed by the Arab finance ministers demanded that their countries freeze assets owned by Syrian officials and withdraw Arab investments in Syria.
According to the statement, the sanctions were designed to not harm the Syrian people.
The Arab League had set Friday as a deadline for Damascus to endorse a plan to allow Arab monitors into the country, pull the Syrian Army from civilian areas and open dialogue with the opposition.
Syria ignored the deadline, the second set by the regional body this month.
Despite Syria's pledge to withdraw its army from cities and let in monitors, the violence has continued, prompting unusually tough reprisals from the Cairo-based League, stinging rebukes from Turkey and French calls for humanitarian intervention.
The 22-country organization has already suspended Syria's membership earlier this month.
Having close economic ties with Damascus, Iraqi foreign minister had reservations about the planned sanctions.
Iraq is a neighbor to Syria and there are interests - there are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living in Syria and there is trade, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters in Najaf, Reuters reported.
Lebanon also has the same idea and Jordan too has shown its objection.
Along with Iraq, Lebanon too criticized the planned sanctions.
Lebanon was one of only two countries to vote against suspending Syria from the Arab League earlier this month.
Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour has said his country would not impose sanctions on Syria, but Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Lebanon would implement Arab League decisions because it is in our interest to be with the Arab consensus.
It was not immediately clear how united any Arab embargos against Syria would be in practice.
Yet, the Arab economy ministers said they proposed a committee be created to be tasked with specifying the goods to be excluded from the ban.
Syria depends on its Arab neighbors for half of its exports and a quarter of its imports.
The state-run Syrian news agency SANA said the move by the pan-Arab bloc was unprecedented.
The Syrian people reject the Arab League for being a tool of foreign interference, SANA said.
The unprecedented Arab sanctions followed protests that have escalated in Syria over the past eight months for an end to Assad's 11-year rule.
The United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown on protests which erupted in mid-March, inspired by popular Arab uprisings which have toppled three Arab leaders.