Arab League gives Syria three days to allow observers (UPDATE)

Arab League gives Syria three days to allow observers (UPDATE)

Changes source, adds details (first version was posted at 23:59)

The Arab League on Wednesday gave the Syrian government three days to accept a deal allowing Arab monitors into the embattled country and "immediately" halt violence against protesters or face economic sanctions, dpa reported.

"The killing should be stopped so that there would be hopes for a solution," said Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim.

"We are coming near the end of Arab diplomacy for Syria," he warned without elaborating.

Jassim, who is also Qatar's foreign minister, was speaking in the Moroccan capital Rabat following a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers on the months-long violence in Syria.

The head of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi, who attended the meeting, said that the monitors would be deployed in around 16 flashpoint areas in Syria.

He added that those areas had been specified after consultations with Syrian opposition and human rights groups.

"Their mandate is to protect civilians in Syria," said al-Arabi.

Keeping their pressure on Damascus, Turkey and the Arab League called Wednesday on the Syrian government to end its violent crackdown on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

Their call was made hours after at least 31 soldiers and civilians were killed in clashes across Syria.

Following a meeting in Rabat also attended by Turkey's foreign minister, the Arab League called for "prompt measures" to protect civilians in Syria.

Turkey has emerged as one of the most vociferous critics of the Syrian government's crackdown on opposition.

An Arab-Turkish cooperation forum held in the same city also spoke of "the necessity of sparing the Syrians more violence and bloodshed."

The Rabat gatherings were not attended by officials from Syria, where army deserters earlier Wednesday attacked a military intelligence office in Harasta, near the capital Damascus.

Six soldiers were killed and more than 20 injured in the attack, according to opposition figures.

"The Syrian Free Army (deserters) struck with rockets and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," Omar Idlibi, the Beirut-based spokesman for the opposition Syrian Local Coordination Committees, told dpa.

The renegade military group announced Wednesday the formation of a military council to oust al-Assad's regime.

"This period requires the Free Syrian Army to establish an interim military council," said a statement by the group.

Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, who defected from the army to form the Syrian Free Army in July, is expected to head the council, the statement added.

Also on Wednesday, army defectors killed eight soldiers and wounded dozens in an attack on a security checkpoint in the Syrian town of Kafr Zeta in Hama, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A further 17 civilians were killed when Syrian troops fired on anti-government protesters in several areas of the country, according to the opposition General Syria Revolution Committees.

In Damascus, protesters believed to be loyal to al-Assad attacked the embassies of Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

France, meanwhile, summoned its ambassador to Syria "for consultations."

More than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since pro-democracy protests began in mid-March, according to the United Nations.

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