Arab League meets on Syria crisis

Arab foreign ministers on Sunday opened an emergency meeting in Cairo on the crisis in Syria where the UN says more than 3,000 people have been killed in a crackdown on anti-government protests.

Gulf states requested the meeting to discuss "the situation in Syria, which has deteriorated sharply, particularly in its humanitarian dimensions, and steps that could help end the bloodshed and halt the machine of violence."

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on October 15, 2011 shows Syrian men carrying a victim after he was shot during an anti-regime rally in Dael on the outskirts of Daraa, a flashpoint town in the south, on October 14.

Before the opening of the talks at the Cairo-based League, several ministers met informally at a hotel with the organisation's secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi.

One diplomat who took part said the participants were divided on the means to halt the bloodshed since anti-regime protests broke out in mid-March.

Syria's possible suspension and the recognition of an opposition Syrian National Council were raised "but the majority believed it necessary to give a chance" for Arabi to encourage the implementation of rapid reforms, he said.

They also rejected any foreign intervention.

Arab foreign ministers already met in Cairo on September 13 and called on the Syrian authorities to "immediately stop the bloodshed," drawing a testy response from Damascus.

Arabi earlier met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and presented him with a 13-point document outlining Arab proposals for reform.

A coalition of 121 Arab and international rights groups, in a joint statement, on Sunday urged the League to take action to prevent Syria from sliding into civil war.

They called on the organisation to suspend Syria's membership, downgrade Arab diplomatic missions in Damascus and to back action against Damascus at the UN Security Council.

AFP

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