11/24/2011, 00.00
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Arab League pondering sanctions against Damascus

International pressure on the Assad regime is mounting. France yesterday described the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, as a “legitimate partner”. The idea of humanitarian corridors or a no-fly zone maintained by Arab and Turkish plane is gaining ground.
Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo are discussing what sanctions to take against Syria for not implementing the League’s peace plan, which calls for a military pullout of civilian areas. “It is regrettable that Syrian officials have not complied with this plan drafted within an Arab framework to stave off foreign intervention,” said Ahmed bin Heli, the deputy head of the Arab League. On 19 November, Damascus had said that it wanted explanations as well as changes to the Arab League plan, including the number of observers (500) suggest to monitor its implementation.

In the meantime, various initiatives are being discussed. In France, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe described the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) as "the legitimate partner with which we want to work”. Equally, France was “working with Arab League and our allies to obtain recognition for” the SNC, he said during a press conference with the SNC president Burhan Ghalioun (pictured with Juppé).

Juppé also suggested the creation of humanitarian corridors, if authorised by the Syrian government or under an international mandate.

“There are two possible ways,” he explained. “That the international community, Arab League and the United Nations can get the regime to allow these humanitarian corridors, but if that isn't the case we'd have to look at other solutions”. Ultimately, “For us, there is no possible humanitarian aid without an international mandate,” Juppe added.

As clashes continue in the country, the SNC has called on the Free Syrian Army, which is made of military defectors, to take only a defensive posture and not attack regular troops and military bases.

In a situation of great instability, rumours are flying.

Israeli sources say that Turkey is expected to set up secure buffer zones on its border with Syria that would allow armed opposition groups to organise against the Syrian regime from bases protected by the Turkish army. According to various reports, the Syrian army has already lost control in the Idlib area.

European sources in Washington confirm that there are plans for a no fly zone to be imposed on Syria by Arab and Turkish warplanes, with the US coordinating the logistics.
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