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U.S./World

Syria slapped with ultimatum over observers

| Friday, Nov. 25, 2011

BEIRUT — The Arab League told Syria on Thursday that it has one day to agree to allow international observers into the country or it could face sanctions.

The group previously extended the deadline for the government to accept the observers' mission but rejected Syria's suggested changes to the plan.

The ultimatum was made amid mounting international pressure on the Syrian government to end a crackdown on a protest movement that has spread across the country since spring. Activists say that more than 400 protesters and security forces have been killed this month as the violence has increased.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called for international forces to set up "humanitarian corridors" in Syria to allow aid groups access to cities where security forces' operation have taken a heavy toll on civilians and sectarian tension is growing.

Although the European Union has no plans to expand sanctions, a spokeswoman said Thursday that "protection of civilians in Syria is an increasingly urgent and important aspect of responding to the events in country," according to the Associated Press.

The Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, and prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have both called for Syrian President Bashar Assad, their former ally, to step down.

Some Syrian activists who had initially hoped to be able to pressure Assad's government to reform or quit without international interference are now seeking outside help.

"We are inside the fire. If we go right, there will be fire, and if we go left, there will be fire," said an activist in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, who said the number of people attending demonstrations had increased since security forces shot dead a 15-year-old youth two weeks ago.

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