August 8, 2011 / 11:14 AM / 9 years ago

Arab League: don't expect "drastic" steps over Syria

CAIRO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said on Monday the pan-Arab body would use persuasion rather than “drastic measures” to press for an end to violence in Syria, speaking after one of the bloodiest weeks in a five-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

The muted Arab response on Syria has contrasted with the League’s backing for a “no-fly zone” over Libya after an uprising began there. Saudi Arabia broke its silence on Sunday by demanding an end to Syria’s bloodshed and recalling its ambassador.

Assad extended a tank onslaught in Syria’s Sunni Muslim tribal heartland on Monday, residents said, in an escalating crackdown on focal points of popular unrest.

“Do not expect drastic measures but step-by-step persuasion to resolve the conflict,” Elaraby told reporters after he was asked what concrete actions the League would take and if any steps could include suspending Syria’s membership of the body.

“What is happening in Syria worries the League and the world. Dialogue and ending violence are the only options. Handling protests and calls for change cannot be through violence. The Arab League is hopeful and expects a positive response from Syria to the League’s statement,” he said.

“At present we have issued a statement and other countries have issued statements. I know of no one asking for further action for the time being lets see what will be the result of the statement issued by the Arab League and by some individual Arab countries,” he added.

The Arab League expressed “growing concern” on Sunday about Syria and called on the authorities to stop acts of violence against protesters immediately. (Reporting by Reuters Television and Ayman Samir; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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