The Arab League halted its observer mission to Syria yesterday, sharply criticising President Bashar Assad for escalating the violence in recent days that has killed at least 80 people. The rising bloodshed has added urgency to new attempts by Arab and Western countries to find a resolution to the 10 months of violence that, according to the United Nations, has killed at least 5,400 people as Assad seeks to crush persistent protests demanding an end to his rule.
But the initiatives continue to face two major obstacles: Damascus's rejection of an Arab peace plan calling for a transition to a unity government, and Russia's willingness to use its UN Security Council veto to protect Syria from sanctions. Syrian government forces clashed with anti-regime army defectors across the country on Saturday. At least nine people were reported killed.