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World powers lean on Syria amid unrest

By Joe Sterling, CNN
November 30, 2011 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 19 killed in Syria on Wednesday, activists say
  • The Organization of Islamic Cooperation huddled Wednesday to discuss Syria
  • Turkish foreign minister says his nation will impose a travel ban on some regime officials
  • The U.N. Human Rights Council is meeting on Friday

(CNN) -- World pressure on the Syrian regime escalated Wednesday as Turkey announced tough economic sanctions and a leading U.N. body announced a Friday meeting on the human rights situation.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a worldwide alliance of Muslim nations, met on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia to discuss the bloodshed in Syria, whose government has been widely condemned for its fierce crackdown against protesters.

"Collective punishment methods, besieging cities, bombing mosques, using excessive violence against peaceful demonstrators and killing tens of people every day pointing weapons to their own people with army units following armed gangs such as shabiha are the manifestations of the Syrian administration's lack of understanding of legitimacy," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who announced a series of sanctions against Syria.

Turkey plans to stop selling and providing weaponry to the Syrian army. It also will prevent the transfer of munitions from third countries to Syria via Turkey, Davutoglu said.

The government is halting transactions with Syria's Central Bank and freezing Syrian government financial possessions in Turkey. It is suspending a credit agreement to finance infrastructure projects in Syria and credit relations with the Syria government.

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Turkey will impose a travel ban on some members of the Syrian leadership and freeze their possessions, as well. A similar ban will be imposed on some Syrian businessmen in a position to support the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Turkey has been one of Syria's largest trading partners and once had close ties to the Syrian regime. But the Turkish government has been vocal in condemning the al-Assad government's assault on protesters.

A U.S. official commended Turkey, saying the "leadership shown by Turkey in response to the brutality and violation of the fundamental rights of the Syrian people will isolate the Assad regime and send a strong message to Assad and his circle that their actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

"The measures announced by the Turkish government today will undoubtedly increase the pressure on the Syrian regime, and we continue to call on other governments to join the chorus of condemnation and pressure against the Assad regime so that the peaceful and democratic aspirations of the Syrian people can be realized. President Obama has coordinated closely with Prime Minister (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan throughout the crisis in Syria and will continue to do so going forward," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Earlier this month, the United Nations said well over 3,500 people have died during the unrest. Human rights groups have reported many deaths since then. Syria's government has consistently blamed armed gangs for the violence and said security forces are protecting the people.

At least 19 people were killed in Syria on Wednesday, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an activist group. Ten died in Idlib in the northwest, seven in Homs and two in Hama, both in the west. Two woman and two children were among those killed. Injuries also were reported in Homs and Idlib.

CNN is unable to independently confirm events occurring inside Syria because the government does not allow journalists free access to the country.

The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday announced a special session on the Syrian human rights situation. The meeting, to be held in Geneva, was sought by the European Union.

The announcement follows the release of a report Monday by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. That panel said Syria's military and security forces have committed crimes against humanity during their crackdown on protesters, and it urged the government to end human rights violations and bring justice to those who've committed such crimes.

Poland and the European Union asked for a special session of the council. Poland submitted a draft resolution that condemned "widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights" and called for bringing "alleged perpetrators" to justice.

The draft recommends that U.N. member states and regional organizations, such as the Arab League, "support efforts to protect the population of the Syrian Arab Republic and to bring an immediate end to gross human rights violations."

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation met in the Saudi city of Jeddah, and the group exhorted Syria to make change.

Akmal Al-Din Ihsan Oghloo, the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, told reporters the alliance welcomed Arab League efforts "to reach a solution to the crisis in Syria and has called on Syria to positively respond to the decisions of the Arab League."

"The executive committee asked Syrian authorities to stop breaching human rights and to allow Islamic and International human rights organizations to enter Syria," Oghloo said.

Foreign ministers from 19 Arab League countries this week voted to slap economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, including cutting ties with the nation's central bank, banning high-profile officials from visiting Arab countries and freezing government assets.

Iraq and Lebanon abstained from the voting, officials said.

Syria accused the Arab League of trying to escalate the situation to a broader international level rather than following agreements reached with Syrian officials.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby said a committee examining how to implement the sanctions will focus on protecting civilians while targeting the government.

The United States and the European Union have also imposed sanctions on Syria.

The Syrian government crackdown began in mid-March, when peaceful protests in the southern city of Daraa were met with violent suppression. In the following months, protests have continued across the country, with protesters demanding al-Assad's ouster and democratic elections.

CNN's Yesim Comert and Tracy Doueiry contributed to this report

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