BEIRUT - Tens of thousands of Syrians, some calling for their president's execution, protested Friday against the authoritarian regime, as the Arab League indefinitely postponed a meeting on the crisis because of divisions over how to stop the bloodshed.
Security forces opened fire during protests and conducted security raids in several places around Syria, killing at least 10 people, mostly in the rebellious central region, activists said. The army also sent reinforcements into a southern area where military defectors recently launched deadly attacks on regime troops.
The demonstrators urged Arab leaders to move quickly to try to end the violence, saying the Arab League's delays were allowing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad more time to kill.
"The Arab League is killing us," read some of the banners held at Friday's demonstrations.
The 22-member league has proposed a peace plan, suspended Syria's membership, and imposed sanctions but has not been able to agree on the next steps after Syria refused to let in monitors to ensure compliance with the peace proposal.
It was supposed to meet Saturday, but an Arab League diplomat said divisions among member nations over what to do next forced a delay. Instead, a smaller group of five Arab foreign ministers tasked with overseeing the implementation of the body's demands on Syria will meet Saturday in Doha, Qatar, he said.
The U.N. Security Council is waiting to see what the Arab League does before it goes ahead with a U.N. resolution. Because of Russia's strong objections to sanctions, Western powers want to follow the Arab League's lead.
The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the details, said that Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, and Oman favor an Arab-led solution to the Syrian crisis and reject Western political interference. Another camp led by Gulf nations, as well as Tunisia and Libya, seeks the help of the international community in pushing for Assad's ouster, he said.
Despite their differences, Arab leaders oppose a scenario similar to that of Libya, where NATO intervention helped rebel fighters oust Moammar Gadhafi and shattered the country's security apparatus.