November 14, 2011 / 11:26 AM / in 6 years

Arab League meets rights groups over Syria violence

* League suspended Syria in meeting on Saturday

* Damascus called for Arab summit after League decision

* Syria failed to implement plan to halt violence

CAIRO, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Arab League officials met Arab human rights and other groups on Monday to discuss ways to protect Syrian civilians from a violent crackdown by the authorities aimed at crushing eight months of protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

The League decided on Saturday to suspend Syria from the pan-Arab body and to impose sanctions after Damascus failed to abide by a plan it had accepted to halt violence and start talks with the opposition.

Syria has called for an emergency Arab summit in an apparent bid to avoid being suspended. The League had said it would meet the rights groups and opposition figures this week.

“The aim of this meeting it to establish a vision for protecting civilians from the grip of the Syrian army,” a League official, who asked not to be identified, said shortly before the meeting with Arab groups started.

League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby led the talks with the Arab organisations which included the Arab Organisation for Human Rights and Arab unions for lawyers, doctors and journalists. Some nine groups were involved.

Elaraby had said on a visit to Libya on Sunday that League officials would meet representatives of Syrian groups opposed to Assad on Tuesday but said it was too soon to consider recognising the Syrian opposition as the legitimate authority. (Reporting by Ayman Samir; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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