Arabs call for UN force in Syria
The Arab League will call for the UN Security Council to create a joint peacekeeping force for Syria, the latest effort by the regional group to end the 11-month old crisis that has killed more than 5,000 people.
The new effort is spelled out in a draft resolution and expected to be adopted by League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo. However, Syria is unlikely to accept a joint UN-Arab League peacekeeping force.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal conveyed the League's frustration with Syria by telling delegates it was no longer appropriate for the league to stand by and watch the bloodshed in Syria.
"Until when will we remain spectators?" he said. "It is a disgrace for us as Muslims and Arabs to accept" the bloodshed in Syria, he said.
The Arab League has been at the forefront of regional efforts to end 11 months of bloodshed in Syria.
The group put forward a plan that President Bashar Assad agreed to in December, then sent in monitors to check whether the Syrian regime was complying. But when it became clear that Assad's regime was flouting the terms of the agreement and killings went on, the League pulled the observers out last month.
The draft resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire in Syria and demands regime forces lift the siege on neighbourhoods and villages and pull troops and their heavy weapons back to their barracks.
The creation of the group came after last weekend's veto at the UN by Russia and China of a Western and Arab draft resolution that would have pressured Assad to step down.
Meanwhile, al Qaida's leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged Muslims to support Syrian rebels, raising fears that Islamic extremists will try to exploit the uprising.
In an eight-minute video message, he called for the overthrow of Syria's "pernicious, cancerous regime".