* Qatar, other Gulf Arabs leading calls for action
* Iraq voiced reservations over sanctions (Adds quotes, details)
By Yasmine Saleh and Ayman Samir
CAIRO, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Arab states voted on Sunday to impose economic
sanctions on Syria immediately, in response to President Bashar al-Assad's
failure to halt a violent crackdown on an eight-month uprising against his
Qatar said that if Arab nations failed to resolve the crisis, other foreign
powers might intervene.
Nineteen of the Arab League's 22 members voted for sanctions that include a
travel ban on senior Syrian officials, freezing Syrian government assets,
halting trade dealings with the central bank and stopping Arab investment.
"The decision should be executed immediately, starting today," Qatari Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told a news
conference after he chaired a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.
The Arab League has for decades avoided imposing sanctions its members but
has been spurred into action by the scale of bloodshed during Syria's
crackdown and by the failure by Damascus to implement an Arab peace plan.
The Arab peace plan called for sending in Arab monitors, withdrawing Syrian
troops from residential areas and starting talks between the government and
opposition. Damascus ignored several Arab League deadlines.
Arabs have said they want a regional solution and do not want foreign
intervention in Syria. France became the first major power to seek
international involvement last week when it called for "humanitarian
corridors" to protect civilians.
Sheikh Hamad said foreign powers might intervene if they did not consider
Arabs "serious" in their bid to end the crisis.
"All the work we are doing is to avoid this interference," he said, adding
that the League could itself seek international intervention "if the Syrians
do not take us seriously".
Hundreds of people, including civilians, soldiers and army deserters, have
been killed in Syria this month, in unrest inspired by uprisings that
overthrew leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
The new sanctions could plunge Syria deeper into economic crisis, although
the League said measures were not intended to hurt ordinary people.
"This is a very sad and unfortunate day for me," the Qatari minister said.
"I had hoped the Syrian brothers ... would stop the violence and release the
Qatar has been at the forefront of the drive to end the violence, backed by
other Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia which have long been frustrated
by Syria's alliance with Riyadh's regional rival Iran.
Lebanon, which for years had a Syrian military presence on its soil, voted
against sanctions, as did Iraq, which neighbours Syria and Iran. Baghdad had
said before the meeting it would not impose sanctions.
"Iraq has reservations about this decision. For us, this decision ... will
harm the interests of our country and our people as we have a large
community in Syria," Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abbawi told
Non-Arab Turkey attended the Cairo meeting. Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu
said Ankara would act in unison with Arabs.
"When civilians are killed in Syria and the Syrian regime increases its
cruelty to innocent people, it should not be expected for Turkey and the
Arab League to be silent," Davutoglu said, according to Turkey's state news
"We hope the Syrian government will get our message and the problem will be
solved within the family," he said, adding that the region did not want a
repeat of events in Iraq and Libya, two states where international powers
During Libya's uprising, an Arab League call for an no-fly zone led to a
U.N. Security Council resolution, which in turn paved the way for NATO air
strikes on Muammar Gaddafi's forces. (Additional reporting by Suadad
al-Salhy in Baghdad, Seda Sezer in Istanbul and Tom Perry in Cairo; Writing
by Edmund Blair)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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Received on Sun Nov 27 2011 - 14:14:18 EST