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What should Arab League ministers do about Syria?

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A young girl holds a placard that reads, 'Go, we want to go back to our schools' during a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Zabadani, near Damascus on Jan. 13. (Reuters)

The mandate of the Arab League observer mission in Syria has expired after its monitors spent a month fanning out across the country, checking in on the government's adherence to the peace plan.

The presence of the 165 monitors was no panacea, and early signs indicated that the turmoil would continue unabated. Roughly 400 people were killed during the monitors' deployment, according to the UN Security Council's sources.

The monitors were expected to release their final report to Arab League foreign ministers Thursday, and the ministers will meet in Cairo this weekend to decide on their next steps.

The Arab ministers will also consider Qatar's proposal for Arab troops to be sent to Syria to intervene -- an idea Damascus has angrily rejected.

The observer mission -- which has already been called a failure by the opposition and some Arab League officials in Qatar -- may also be extended for another month.

Meanwhile, protesters continue to condemn the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and call for an end to the violent crackdown that has left roughly 5,400 activists dead since the popular uprising began last March, according to UN estimates.

Assad supporters have also been out in droves. Among other things, they wrote and signed a 10 km long letter as a 'message of loyalty to the homeland and its leader' in Damascus on Jan. 15.

Most of the violence has involved security forces firing on unarmed protesters but in recent months there have been reports of soldiers defecting and attacking the regime's military forces, while some opposition members have begun arming themselves.

The head of the Arab League has warned that Syria could be headed for civil war.

Read: Special Report - Violence in Syria

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Tags: protest, UN, World

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