Syria's embattled regime has called for an urgent Arab summit as it faced growing isolation - not only by the West but by its neighbours - amid mounting pressure to end its bloody crackdown against an eight-month uprising.
The crisis threatened to raise regional tensions, with Turkey summoning a Syrian diplomat in protest and sending a plane to evacuate non-essential personnel after a night of attacks on several foreign embassies by government supporters angry over the Arab League decision to suspend their country's membership.
The 22-member bloc's near unanimous vote - only Lebanon, Yemen and Syria were opposed - put Damascus in direct confrontation with other Arab powerhouses, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who were pushing for the suspension and constitutes a major boost to the country's opposition.
Tens of thousands of government supporters poured into the streets of Damascus and other cities - a turnout helped by the closure of businesses and schools.
Violence also continued elsewhere, with activists reporting at least 14 people killed in shootings by security forces in several parts of the country. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven of the deaths occurred in Hama when security forces fired on a group of opposition protesters who infiltrated a pro-government rally in the central city.
Syria's call for an Arab summit to discuss the country's spiralling political unrest was seen as another possible bid by President Bashar Assad to buy time as he faces snowballing punitive action over his crackdown that the UN estimates has killed more than 3,500 people since mid-March.
In a thinly veiled warning, the government said it was calling for the meeting "because the fallout from the Syrian crisis could harm regional security" - an apparent effort to play on concerns that Assad's removal would spread chaos around the Middle East.
But in a significant concession, Syria also invited Arab League officials to visit before its membership suspension was to take effect on Wednesday, and said they could bring any civilian or military observers they deem appropriate to oversee implementation of an Arab League plan for ending the bloodshed.
The Syrian government is usually loathe to accept anything resembling any form of foreign intervention and the open invitation signalled the government's alarm over the Arab action.
The November 2 deal called for Syria to halt attacks on protesters, pull tanks out of cities and hold talks with the opposition. In voting for the suspension, the Arab League said it would meet again Wednesday in the Moroccan capital of Rabat to reconsider the decision, giving Assad some leeway to take action to prevent it.