Arab League split on Syria as mourners attacked

Civilians come under attack from Syrian troops in two communities and are arrested en masse in another, as a move at the Arab League to suspend Damascus fails to garner enough support.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal attends Sunday's emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo. A source said he pushed to suspend Syria from the organization and to recognize an opposition coalition as the country's legitimate authority. (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Reuters)

Civilians came under attack from Syrian troops in two communities Sunday and were arrested en masse in another, as a move at the Arab League to suspend Damascus failed to garner enough support.

A bloc of six Persian Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, tried to get the organization of Arab states to suspend Syria's membership and to recognize the Syrian National Council as the country's legitimate authority during an emergency session, an Arab diplomat told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

But the measures faced opposition from Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon, Yemen and several other states and did not get the two-thirds backing required.

Ziad al-Obeidi, a prominent activist in eastern Syria who had helped organize peaceful demonstrations in the region, was killed by security police on Saturday. (Reuters)

Instead, the Arab League said it will host talks in Cairo in two weeks between opposition groups and the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. If a ceasefire is not reached by that time, the league will hold another emergency session, participants in Sunday's meeting said.

The Arab League has repeatedly called for an end to the violence in Syria, but suspension of a member is rare. Although the move would not likely have a direct, tangible impact on Syria, it would constitute a major blow to Assad's embattled regime by stripping Damascus of its Arab support and further deepening its isolation.

The group suspended Libya's membership earlier this year after Moammar Gadhafi's violent crackdown on protesters there, but has since reinstated Libya under the country's new leadership.

Forces fire on funeral procession

Meanwhile, security forces opened fire on a funeral procession for a slain activist in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, witnesses said.

About 7,000 people had joined the procession to remember Ziad al-Obeidi, who was shot dead on Saturday as he fled from security police who had stormed his home.

Al-Obeidi, 42, worked for the British-based Observatory for Human Rights in Syria and had been in hiding since troops stormed the city two months ago.

Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman said some 7,000 people calling for the downfall of President Assad took part in Sunday's procession.

There was no immediate word on casualties from Sunday's shooting at mourners. Witnesses said troops used live ammunition.

Abdul-Rahman and other activists said security forces also stormed areas near the capital, Damascus, and were carrying out house-to-house arrests as part of efforts to suppress the anti-government uprising. At least 44 people were rounded up in Sunday's raids.

Elsewhere, residents and activists reported that thousands of Syrian troops backed by armoured divisions opened fire Sunday in the resort town of Zabadani, on the border with Lebanon. The Reuters news agency said machineguns and anti-aircraft weapons were fired from vehicles as they entered the town.

Despite a growing international outcry, President Assad has shown no sign of easing his campaign to crush the seven-month-old uprising against his regime.

With files from The Associated Press