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Arabs plan to freeze Syria economic ties: document

CAIRO (Reuters) - Arab states plan to cut commercial ties with Syria's government and freeze its assets as they step up pressure to end months of political violence in the country, a draft document to be discussed by Arab ministers on Sunday showed.

The sanctions would also include a travel ban on senior Syrian officials and a halt to commercial flights to the country, according to the Arab League document seen by Reuters on Saturday.

Dealings by Arab states with Syria's central bank would be halted, it said, but basic commodities needed by the Syrian people would be exempted from the list of sanctions. A committee would be formed on Sunday to decide the exemptions.

The document, drawn up by the Arab League's Social and Economic Committee at a preparatory meeting in Cairo, would need to be ratified by ministers before coming into force.

Damascus missed a Friday deadline to agree an Arab League proposal to send monitors to Syria, where the United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed in the eight-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The Arab League turned against Assad this month, suspending Syria's membership of the regional body in a surprise move that broke with months of low-key diplomacy.

The draft document said Arab states would freeze the financing of projects on Syrian territory and Arab central banks would monitor bank transfers and letters of credit to make sure they comply with the sanctions. Remittances sent home by Syrians working abroad would not be blocked.

"It is important that the international community move to resolve this problem and deliver a powerful message to the Syrian government," said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who was invited to attend Saturday's committee meeting.

He said the sanctions must not affect the daily life of Syria's people or threaten their most basic needs such as access to water.

"We know that the Arab League during its meetings today and tomorrow will take strong decisions to stop the violence in Syria," said Babacan.

(Reporting by Ayman Samir and Patrick Werr; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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