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International Pressure Builds On Syrian Regime

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad salutes a crowd in the town of Al-Raqqa in early November.
Pressure is mounting on the Syrian regime to end violence against protesters, with the Arab League threatening economic sanctions and France calling for a fresh round from the UN.

More than a dozen more protesters were said to have been killed throughout Syria on November 18, adding to the the eight-month death toll of well more than 3,500 as authorities combat the uprising against embattled leader Bashar al-Assad.

The regime has attributed the violence to the work of "gangs."

The Arab League has suspended Syria from the bloc, and AP reports that Damascus has tentatively agreed to allow Arab observers to enter the country in order to monitor violence and implement a peace plan announced by the bloc earlier this week. Syrian officials, however, have said they are "still studying the details" of the arrangement.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner downplayed the Arab League's efforts, saying, "We believe Assad needs to step down and allow for a democratic transition to take place."

Meanwhile, a senior British diplomat has launched talks with Syria's opposition while French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe urged the UN Security Council to increase sanctions against the Syrian regime.

Veto-wielding Russia is resisting any such move, however, with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on November 18 calling for "restraint and caution."

Russia and China in October blocked a UN resolution implementing sanctions against Syria.

Syria is predominantly Sunni Muslim, but Assad and many of its top leaders are Alawite, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

compiled from agency reports