London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Angry pro-regime demonstrators attacked both the Qatari and Saudi embassies in Damascus late Saturday, after The Arab League suspended Syria and called for its security forces to stop killing civilians.
Saudi Arabia has condemned the storming of its embassy, which according to reports saw protesters break into the kingdom’s diplomatic compound and ransack some parts within.
The state-run Saudi News Agency quoted an official source at Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry as saying that the kingdom strongly condemned the attack, and that Syrian authorities should shoulder the responsibility for the security and protection of Saudi interests and employees in Syria.
Saturday’s Arab League decision was a sharp rebuke and humiliating blow to the Syrian regime. The Arab League will impose economic and political sanctions on Damascus and has appealed to member states to withdraw their ambassadors, said Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani. It will also call a meeting of Syrian opposition parties, he said.
“We were criticised for taking a long time but this was out of our concern for Syria,” Sheikh Hamad told reporters at the League’s headquarters in Cairo. “We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions.”
Syria’s representative at the Arab League, Youssef Ahmed, said the decision was “not worth the ink it was written with. “He went on to say that suspending Damascus violated the League’s charter because it could only be done by consensus at a summit of Arab leaders.
It was clear that “orders were issued to them from the United States and Europe to hasten a decision against Syria,” Ahmed told Syrian state TV.
Obama praised the Arab League and said he would continue to pile pressure on the Syrian leadership.
“These significant steps expose the increasing diplomatic isolation of a regime that has systematically violated human rights and repressed peaceful protests,” he said in a statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated her call for Assad to step down. “International pressure will continue to build until the brutal Assad regime heeds the calls of its own people and the world community,” she said in a statement.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the decision sent an important signal to those in the U.N. Security Council who had up to now prevented a clear resolution on Syria.
“We will urge this to be seen as a chance for a change of heart,” he said.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said it was time for international bodies to take more action.
“France appeals to the international community to hear the message sent by the Arab states, to take its responsibilities and to thus act without further delay,” he said in a statement.
Freezing Syria out of the 22-member League of Arab States carries extra symbolism in the wake of events in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a rebellion that benefited from NATO air support.
The NATO mission got U.N. Security Council approval after Libya was suspended by the Arab League.
“This step introduces a possibility of foreign intervention and opens the door for engaging the international community in the case,” said Nabil Abdel Fattah, a political analyst at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.
In a thus far unrelated development, Bahraini security officials uncovered a terrorist cell plotting attacks against the Gulf kingdom in Qatar and that the four suspects have links to Iran.
The Interior Ministry says in a statement Saturday that the four detained Bahrainis had a laptop containing sensitive security information about sites like the Saudi Embassy and the Interior Ministry building in Bahrain’s capital.
The suspects have been extradited to Bahrain.