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A senior Arab League diplomat says Syria has ignored a deadline to allow an observer mission into the country or face economic sanctions.
The diplomat says the Friday afternoon deadline passed with no word from Damascus. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The 22-nation bloc had given Syria 24 hours to agree to the observer mission, saying it would meet to decide on punishing measures that could include a freeze on financial dealings and assets if the deadline was missed.
Syria is the scene of the deadliest crackdown against the Arab Spring's eruption of protests and international pressure has been mounting on President Bashar Assad to stop the bloodshed.
Thursday's threat from the Arab League was a humiliating blow to Damascus, a founding member of the Arab League. It comes as international pressure mounts on President Bashar Assad to stop the brutal crackdown on an uprising against his regime. The U.N. says has at least 3,500 have been killed since mid-March.
Syria is the scene of the bloodiest crackdown against the Arab Spring's eruption of protests. Deaths in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have numbered in the hundreds. Libya's toll is unknown and likely higher than Syria's, but that conflict differed: Early on it became an outright civil war between two armed foes.
In a statement released after the committee met Thursday, the group said punishment could include ceasing trade with the Syrian government apart from strategic goods that affect the Syrian people. Other sanctions could include stopping flights to Syria and ending dealings with Syria's central bank.
The Arab League already has suspended Syria's membership over the bloodshed and Syria's failure to abide by an Arab peace plan it signed.
Thursday's meeting took place in a hotel rather than at the League's headquarters in the central Tahrir Square, where there have been clashes between Egyptian security forces and protesters calling for the ruling military to step down.
Also Thursday, the European Union said protecting civilians caught up in Syria's crackdown on anti-government protests "is an increasingly urgent and important aspect" of responding to the bloodshed there.
Alongside the diplomatic efforts, violence continued, with clashes reported between troops and army defectors near the town of Rastan and in Houla, both in the restive central province of Homs. The province has been one of the most volatile regions throughout the uprising.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said the toll included at least four civilians.
"Protection of civilians in Syria is an increasingly urgent and important aspect of responding to the events in country," Maja Kocijancic, an EU spokeswoman, said in a statement.
This program aired on November 24, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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