23 Jan 2012

Saudi Arabia pulls out of Arab mission in Syria

2:41 pm on 23 January 2012

Saudi Arabia has pulled out of the Arab League mission in Syria, criticising Damascus for failing to act to stop violence against protesters.

Arab League foreign ministers are meeting in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and are expected to extend the Syria mission for a month and approve an increase in the number of observers from 165.

But Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the international community needs to put more pressure on the regime.

My country will withdraw its monitors because the Syrian government did not execute any of the elements of the Arab resolution plan.

We are calling on the international community to bear its responsibility, and that includes our brothers in Islamic states and our friends in Russia, China, Europe and the United States, he said.

The Arab league mission expired on Thursday, but political violence is reported to be continuing across the country.

The Syrian government is expected to agree to the league's extension.

The BBC says the Arab League has little choice but to extend its stay. Syrian officials are likely to be pleased with the decision because they are not afraid of the monitors.

The Syrian National Council has formally asked the league to refer the crisis to the UN Security Council.

Reforms wanted

The Arab League later outlined a series of reforms it wants Syria to undertake to end the killings.

After its meeting in Cairo, the league called on Syria to form a national unity government, including the opposition, in two months.

The league also reiterated its demands that both sides end the bloodshed.