34 Killed in Syria as Arab League Mulls Seeking UN Help

Most of the dead were from restive provinces of Homs and Idlib; Arab League FMs to meet this week to decide whether to forward Syria peace plan to UN.

Thirty-four people were killed in the government crackdown on protesters across Syria on Saturday, as the Arab League announced was considering an appeal to the United Nations
Security Council to bring an end to the violence.

Activists based in Beirut told dpa that most of the dead were from the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib and seven were army defectors.

Syria Dec. 16, 2011 (Reuters)

The deaths are the latest in an uprising that began in mid-March and has already claimed an 5,000 lives, according to the United Nations.

Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim said that the 22-member pan-Arab organization's foreign ministers would meet in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss a proposal to forward an Arab peace plan on Syria to the world body.

"As Russia has gone to the Security Council, a proposal will be presented at the meeting on December 21 that the Arab League goes to the council to present the Arab initiative," he said.

An Arab diplomat based in Beirut said Syria was given until Wednesday to accept an Arab plan to end the violence in the country.

In terms of the deal, the Syrian regime must halt its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and allow monitors into the country, or face sanctions. The deal also calls on Damascus to initiate talks with the opposition and implement reforms.

Russia and China on Thursday submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council on Syria.

"We are not talking about a military intervention, but we want the Security Council to adopt the Arab initiative," bin Jassim told reporters following talks by an Arab League committee on Syria in the Qatari capital Doha.

Led by Qatar, the committee comprises foreign ministers of Algeria, Egypt, Oman and Sudan.

"We have reached a stage where we have exhausted all avenues to solve it (the Syrian crisis)," added bin Jassim, who is also Qatar's foreign minister.

He accused the Damascus of of procrastinating over a decision on the Arab deal.

An official delegation from neighbouring Iraq travelled to Damascus on Saturday for talks with President Bashar Assad. A source close to the delegation told dpa that the talks had been "fruitful."

The delegation, led by Iraq's National Security Advisor Falah al-Fayadh, is also due to travel to Cairo for a meeting with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, the source said.

According to diplomat sources, Iraq has presented Assad with an "initiative" to end the bloodshed.

"The Iraqi delegation is heading to Cairo with a message to the Arab League that might help find a solution to the Syrian crisis before turning to the UN," a diplomat told dpa.

Iraq, which abstained from the Arab League's vote on imposing sanctions on Syria last month, has close trade ties with Syria.

The Syrian state news agency SANA meanwhile reported that security forces had clashed Saturday with "armed terrorists" in Homs and killed an unspecified number of them, including the group's leader.

Reports from Syria cannot be verified independently, as the authorities have barred most international media from the country.

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