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Arab League issues 24-hour ultimatum

After meeting in Cairo on Thursday, the Arab League have issued an ultimatum to Syria, giving them less than 24 hours to allow monitors to enter the country or face economic sanctions.

Having suspended Syria from the League and imposed a deadline for them to comply with a proposed deal, the regime rejected what they called “impossible conditions”. The proposal of sending a delegation of 500-members as independent monitors to Syria was refused by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, who wanted only 40 to visit the country.

Afifi Abdel Wahab, Egypt's envoy to the Arab League said,

"Tomorrow [Friday] is the deadline for Syria to sign. If they don't sign, the economic and social council [of Arab League ministers] will meet on Saturday to discuss economic sanctions."

The League also requested UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "to take all measures to support the efforts of the Arab League to resolve the critical situation in Syria."

International pressure has been mounting on Syria in the UN, with the UN General Assembly's Human Rights Committee condemning the crackdown in a vote on Tuesday.

The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, received 122 votes in favour, 13 against and 41 abstentions. Arab states that voted for it included co-sponsors Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt.

Russia and China, which vetoed a European-drafted resolution that would have condemned Syria in the UN Security Council last month, abstained.

The ultimatum comes amid intense pressure being placed on Syria to cease violence against pro-democracy protestors in the country.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, met leaders of the opposition Syrian National Council on Wednesday, describing the group as "the legitimate partner with which we want to work".

Juppe also spoke on the Free Syrian Army, an armed rebel group, who have been increasingly growing in strength after carrying out a grenade attack on the ruling regime’s headquarters in the capital Damascus.

He said,

''We would like this army to carry out defensive actions to protect those who have left the [regime's] army and peaceful demonstrations but not take on offensive actions against the army.''

He went on to call on Syria to allow "humanitarian corridors" to be opened up in the country, and said "But if that isn't the case we'd have to look at other solutions ... with international observers."

The UN estimates more than 3,500 people have died since the protests began in March.

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