BEIRUT – Arab foreign ministers on Wednesday gave Syria three days to cease what one league official called its “bloody repression” against its people or face economic sanctions, the latest sign of President Bashar Assad’s growing isolation.

The move by ministers meeting in Rabat, Morocco, came as Syria’s humiliating suspension from the Arab League became effective. The 22-member organization on Saturday decided it would suspend Syria by Wednesday if it did not implement a league-brokered peace plan.

Arab states had “reached the end of the line” with the “bloody repression” by Assad’s government, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al Thani, the foreign minister of Qatar, told reporters in Rabat.

Syria, which has called the suspension illegal and a product of U.S. pressure, boycotted the Morocco meetings, its chair sitting empty. The country is a founding member of the Arab League and considers itself “the beating heart of Arab nationalism.”

The league’s decision to suspend Syria, an unusually robust action by an alliance often criticized as feckless and irrelevant, was a blow to national prestige and prompted mass demonstrations by pro-Assad loyalists, some of whom attacked the foreign missions of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and France.

France recalled its ambassador from Damascus.


Syria has apologized for the attacks and vowed to beef up security at foreign missions.


Arab ministers have accused Syria of failing to implement the peace plan, which includes a cease-fire, the release of prisoners and a dialogue with the opposition. The league plans to send an observer mission to Syria.


Damascus maintains that it is implementing the blueprint and has released more than 1,600 prisoners.


Assad has found himself ever more isolated as Arab nations and former allies such as Turkey have assailed his handling of the crisis, while international sanctions and unrest have battered Syria’s economy.


Some fear Syria, strategically situated in the heart of the Middle East, could be sliding toward civil war as clashes between security forces and armed rebels appear to be on the increase. Despite the opposition protests, Assad still maintains considerable support, especially among minorities fearing a civil war and in major cities such as Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia.


The opposition says November could be the bloodiest month since the revolt began in mid-March, with the number killed by security forces approaching 400. The United Nations blames a “brutal” government crackdown for the deaths of at least 3,500 people since March.