US slams Syria violence, says 'past time' for UN action

WASHINGTON - The White House on Tuesday condemned the Syrian regime's unrelenting violence against protesters, saying it was "past time" for the UN Security Council to take measures against Damascus.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Syria had failed to comply with standards set by regional observers monitoring the situation.

"As sniper fire, torture, and murder in Syria continue, it is clear that the requirements of the Arab League protocol have not been met," Carney said.

He said that the moment had arrived for the international community to take measures against President Bashar al-Assad and his government.

"We believe it's past time for the Security Council to act," Carney said.

"We want to see the international community stand together united in support of the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," he said.

"We're working with our international partners to increase the pressure on the Assad regime to cease the completely unacceptable violence that it's been perpetrating on its own citizens."

Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, was due to travel later Tuesday to Cairo to consult with the Arab League about Syria.

"I think we want to get their assessment face-to-face, in person and have them assess the mission themselves when they get together on Saturday," Nuland said.

"We're not going to pass judgment on the Arab League mission in advance of the Arab League itself meeting and taking stock," Nuland said when asked to comment on criticism of the mission.

Democracy activists have denounced the Arab League observer mission as "unprofessional," after the bloc's chief admitted snipers were still active in the country despite their presence.

The mission has been mired in controversy since the first observers arrived on December 26, with activists accusing Syria's regime of keeping the monitors on a short leash as it presses on with its lethal crackdown on dissent.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces killed three civilians in the central flashpoint city of Homs, even as state television reported observers were in the area.

The group also reported two more civilian deaths in Hama, and said 18 members of the security services died during clashes with army deserters in the southern city of Daraa.