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Arab League cracks down on Syria

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Arab League stepped up sanctions against Syria over its violent suppression of a popular revolt.

The Cairo-based umbrella group of  Arab countries, which last month expelled Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, announced a travel ban Thursday against 17 Syrian VIPs. Assad himself was excluded from the blacklist, but his brother Maher, Syria’s second most-powerful leader, was included.

The Arab League sanctions compound punitive measures imposed on Damascus by the European Union over its almost yearlong crackdown on a Syrian uprising that in recent months has taken on aspects of a civil war. Thousands of Syrians have been killed in the revolt.

Turkey,  a NATO power and Syria’s neighbor and biggest trading partner, also has curtailed dealings with the Assad regime. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has urged Assad to step down, saying he risked sharing the fate of the slain Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The world’s largest Muslim body, the Organization of Islamic Conference, on Wednesday urged Syria to “immediately stop the use of excessive force” against its citizens.

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