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Arab Nations Call for End to Syria’s Crackdown

November 14, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, Arab nations step up the pressure on Syria, where a bloody crackdown on dissidents has left at least 3,500 dead since March.

Today, Jordan’s King Abdullah called on President Bashar al-Assad to quit. Abdullah’s statement follows Saturday’s overwhelming vote by Arab League nations to suspend Syria’s membership. Syria denounced the vote as Western-inspired.

We begin our coverage with a report by John Ray of Independent Television News.

JOHN RAY: Still it is the government’s guns that answer the call for change, and circled and under fire, pictures said to show the city of Homs today. But the crackdown cannot drown out an almost complete chorus of international condemnation and now isolation.

Stunned by their suspension from the Arab League, Syria’s foreign minister denounced the move as shameful, malicious and dangerous. But the violence seems unending. Few are the signs the regime is willing to compromise, and now there is fresh impetus to tighten sanctions.

WILLIAM HAGUE, British foreign secretary: Yes, I think it’s very good that the Arab League are taking a leading role on this crisis. It’s very important in the European Union that we consider additional measures to add to the pressure on the Assad regime.

MARK TONER, State Department spokesman: Our goal here is to increase pressure, economic pressure on Assad and political pressure on Assad. So actions that would help up that pressure or increase that pressure, we believe would be beneficial.

JOHN RAY: As protests continue through an eighth blood-soaked month, King Abdullah of Jordan has become the first Arab leader to join calls for President Assad to step down. Among his allies, only Russia and Iran appear to be holding firm.

AUSAMA MONAJED, Syrian National Council: Things are escalating. And there are certain measures we are requesting that will squeeze the regime economically and financially and to bring these whole atrocities and massacres to an end.

JOHN RAY: No one can tell if the regime is close to cracking, but as security forces continue to round up opponents, activists posted this video online. They say they’re Syrian police defecting to join an opposition that increasingly is armed and ever more determined.