Massive pro-regime crowds vented their anger as international pressure mounted on Arab League

Massive pro-regime crowds vented their anger on Sunday as international pressure mounted on President Bashar al-Assad after an Arab League decision to suspend Syria and over its bloody protest crackdown.
In central Damascus, tens of thousands of people turned out in support of Assad, waving Syrian flags and portraits of the embattled leader, said an AFP reporter at the scene. “The people want Bashar al-Assad,” yelled demonstrators gathered at Sebaa Bahrat Square, also chanting patriotic slogans. Footage broadcast by state television showed another massive rally unfolding in Omayad Square, also in the capital.
“The Syrian people are filling the squares of the nation and announce their rejection of the Arab League decision,” state television said, showing more pro-regime protests in the commercial hub of Aleppo and other cities. Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday voted 18-22 to suspend Syria over its failure to comply with an agreement to end the crackdown on a nationwide protest movement calling for Assad’s resignation.
It called for the withdrawal of Arab envoys from Damascus and agreed on sanctions while inviting “all currents in the Syrian opposition to meet at Arab League headquarters in three days to draw up a joint vision for the coming transitional period.”
The opposition Syrian National Council hailed the Arab League decision, and said it is ready to take part in the proposed talks regarding a transitional period.
The SNC “welcomes the decisions... considers them a step in the right direction, and a clear condemnation of the Syrian regime, which has persisted in its killing and destruction campaigns,” an official of the council said.
It stressed “readiness to participate in discussions regarding the transitional period” on the basis Assad departs and is replaced by a democratic government that excludes anyone “whose hands have been tainted with blood.”
Shortly after the Arab League decision, hundreds of angry demonstrators attacked the Damascus embassies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, two of the 18 members of the pan-Arab group to vote for the move. The protesters also attacked French and Turkish consulates in the city of Latakia.
One group forced open the gate to Qatar’s embassy and made their way to the top of the building, where they removed the Qatari flag and put up a Syrian one, as embassy security personnel fired tear gas, an AFP reporter said.
Qatar’s ambassador left the Syrian capital in July.
Another group hurled stones at the Saudi embassy before smashing windows, entering the premises and ransacking property inside, said the Saudi state news agency SPA.
“The Saudi government strongly condemns this incident and holds the Syrian authorities responsible for the security and protection of all Saudi interests in Syria,” SPA quoted a foreign ministry as saying on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia recalled its Syrian ambassador on August 8 in protest over the government’s repression of demonstrators which, according to the United Nations, has killed more than 3,500 Syrians.
Similar attacks took place in Latakia, 330 kms north of Damascus on the Mediterranean coast, where French and Turkish consulates were the targets of angry crowds, residents said.
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said France had only an honorary consulate in Latakia and he was unaware of it having been attacked. He quoted the French ambassador to Syria as saying late on Saturday that he was unaware of any attacks on French diplomatic or other interests in Syria.
Turkey on Sunday summoned the Syrian charge d’affaires to the foreign ministry in Ankara over attacks, the foreign ministry said.
“Turkey summoned the Syrian charge d’affaires to the ministry ... and submitted a (diplomatic) note,” the ministry said in a written statement.
“Turkey strongly condemns... the loathsome attacks on its embassy in Damascus, consulate in Aleppo and honorary consulate in Latakia,” it added.
Currently, the charge d’affaires is Syria’s highest diplomatic envoy to Turkey.
Thousands of protestors carrying knives and batons attacked Turkey’s diplomatic missions in Syria on Saturday night, furious over Ankara’s support for the Arab League decision to suspend the country, diplomats told Anatolia news agency.
The pro-regime protests came after world leaders applauded the Arab League decision.
“After the Assad regime flagrantly failed to keep its commitments, the Arab League has demonstrated leadership in its effort to end the crisis and hold the Syrian government accountable,” said US President Barack Obama.
At least 150 Syrians have been killed, the majority of them in Homs, since November 2 when the regime signed up to League’s plan to end the violence, according to an AFP tally based on reports by human rights groups.
Washington says Assad has lost legitimacy and must step down. It wants to see Syria trace a similar political transition to other states caught up in the Arab Spring uprisings that are reshaping the Middle East.
A spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said: “We fully support the decisions taken by the Arab League today which show the increasing isolation of the Syrian regime.”
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, whose country is pushing for firm condemnation of Syria at the UN Security Council, urged world powers to act swiftly to “make the violence end, protect the civilian population and allow for political transition in Syria.”

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