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Arabs suspend observer mission, Syria deaths spike

The Arab League has suspended its controversial observer mission in Syria as the bloodshed in a crackdown on anti-regime protests spiked and the death toll in four days topped 210.

world Updated: Jan 29, 2012 12:45 IST

The Arab League has suspended its controversial observer mission in Syria as the bloodshed in a crackdown on anti-regime protests spiked and the death toll in four days topped 210.

The announcement came as the opposition Syrian National Council said its leader would travel to New York to press the UN Security Council for protection from President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

SNC chief Burhan Ghaliun's trip comes amid a new bid by Arab and European states for UN action, opposed by staunch Syria ally Russia, over the nearly 11-month-old deadly crackdown on dissent.

It also comes as Gulf states and Turkey called in Istanbul for global efforts to bring the bloodshed to an "immediate end" and pave the way for a political transition.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said "the decision to suspend the observer mission was taken after a series of consultations with Arab foreign ministers because of the upsurge of violence whose victims are innocent civilians."

He said it also came "after the Syrian government chose the option of escalation, which increased the number of victims."

The monitoring mission head, general Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said on Friday unrest had soared "in a significant way" since Tuesday, especially in the central cities of Homs and Hama and in the northern Idlib region.

According to a tally by AFP taken from reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and official Syrian media, 212 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since Tuesday.

That adds to the figure of more than 5,400 given by the United Nations last month since anti-regime protests erupted in mid-March.

The 165 League observers were deployed a month ago after Syria agreed to a League plan foreseeing a halt to the violence, prisoners freed, tanks withdrawn from built-up areas and free movement of observers and foreign media.

British foreign secretary William Hague said: "Now is the time for the international community to unite, including by agreeing a United Nations Security Council resolution this week, to make clear to President Assad and his regime that the killing must stop."

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle called for the UN to quickly issue a resolution on Syria, while France said it "vigorously condemns the dramatic intensification of violence" in Syria, and urged a speedy UN accord.

Undeterred, interior minister Mohammed al-Shaar said the authorities were determined to "cleanse" Syria and restore order.

"The security forces are determined to carry on the struggle to cleanse Syria of renegades and outlaws ... to restore safety and security," state news agency SANA quoted him as saying at a ceremony in honour of fallen soldiers.