RABAT, Morocco — The Arab League confirmed the suspension of Syria from the organization on Wednesday and gave its government three days to halt the violence and accept an observer mission or face economic sanctions.
The suspension - first announced by the Arab League on Saturday and confirmed during the meeting - is a surprisingly harsh and highly unusual move for a member of Syria's standing.
Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani told reporters after the daylong meeting here that Syria is being offered the chance to end the violence against civilians and implement a peace plan that the Arab League outlined on Nov. 2.
The U.N. estimates that more than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria's 8-month-old uprising.
"The Syrian government has to sign the protocol sent by the Arab League and end all violence against demonstrators," Mr. Hamad said, adding that it has three days.
"Economic sanctions are certainly possible, if the Syrian government does not respond. But we are conscious that such sanctions would touch the Syrian people."
The protocol calls for an observer mission of 30 to 50 members under the auspices of the Arab League to ensure that Syria is following the Arab plan, calling for the regime to halt its attacks on protesters, pull tanks and armored vehicles out of cities, release political prisoners, and allow journalists and rights groups into the country.
The protocol did not specifically say if Syria's suspension from the organization has remained in force, but an official from the Moroccan Foreign Ministry confirmed that is the case. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the media.
The Arab League also demanded the withdrawal of Syria's representative to the organization.
"In the light of insulting and undiplomatic words of the permanent Syrian representative, the Arab League is asking the Syrian government to withdraw its representative," said the Arab League statement, without identifying the behavior in question.
The Arab League rarely has taken decisive actions to deal with crises in the Arab world out of reluctance to criticize fellow governments.
But in this case, several members have described their forceful engagement in the Syrian situation as a way of staving off the kind of foreign intervention that took place in Libya earlier this year.
NATO's bombing campaign against Libya took place less than a month after it was suspended by the Arab League on Feb. 22.
"Arab leaders don't have a legacy of commenting and interfering in domestic events in Arab countries, so now this is a turning point for the Arab League," said Gamal Abdel Gawad, a Cairo-based commentator on Arab affairs.