DAMASCUS  - Syria said on Tuesday it will spurn further Arab efforts to resolve its political crisis, as Gulf states piled on pressure by deciding to pull out their observers and urging strong UN action. The Arab League said its monitors would be confined to base from Wednesday unless Damascus gives its approval for the mission to continue for a second month after an informal extension ran out. "Enough of the Arab solutions from now," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said, accusing the Arabs of "plotting" to internationalise the crisis and taking decisions while "knowing that they will be rejected" by Damascus.

His remarks came after the pan-Arab bloc called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his deputy and to clear the way for a unity government within two months, in a surprise weekend announcement.

"We do not want Arab solutions. We said that two days ago when we refused the initiative and when the ministers' council decided to turn to the Security Council," said Muallem. "We categorically refused (this proposal).

"The solution is a Syrian one based on the interests of the Syrian people... based on the completion of the reform programme proposed by President Bashar al-Assad," he told a televised news conference. Muallem said Syria had no choice but to confront armed groups that the government blames for the violence which the UN says has killed more than 5,400 people since March. "It is the duty of the Syrian government to take the necessary measures to address the problem of those armed elements who are wreaking havoc throughout Syria," he said, stressing Russia would never accept foreign intervention.

"No one can doubt the strength of the Russian-Syrian relationship," based on their history and the interests of both peoples, he said. Activists who accuse Assad's regime of killing peaceful protesters said security forces stormed the central city of Hama on Tuesday as they pressed their bloody crackdown.

"Syrian troops are storming the city from its southern and western entrances," Saleh al-Hamwi, spokesman of the General Revolution Commission, told AFP. Tanks were being deployed around Baba Qibli neighbourhood, where massive protests have been staged and where mutinous soldiers of the Free Syrian Army have been hiding out, he added.

The London-based Observatory said two civilians were killed in Hama province on Tuesday and one in Homs, Syria's third-largest city. Muallem admitted the violence and Western sanctions were causing an economic crisis in Syria, but vowed the government would not be swayed.

"There is no doubt that any kind of sanctions affect the population but they do not affect the political situation," Muallem said, speaking a day after EU foreign ministers slapped fresh sanctions on Syria's military brass.

The Arab League said on Tuesday it had requested a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon so it can present its proposals on resolving the crisis and seek support from the UN Security Council.

The request was issued jointly by the pan-Arab body's secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi, and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, deputy secretary general Ahmad bin Helli told AFP.

Bin Helli said that the League's observers had been operating in Syria under an informal agreement that expired on Tuesday.

"If the Syrian government does not give its agreement to (further) extend the mission, the observers will suspend their work, will remain in their places of residence and will not move," he said.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council said it had decided "to follow Saudi Arabia's decision to pull out its observers from the Arab League mission in Syria."

The GCC called on "members of the UN Security Council... to take all needed measures to press Syria to implement the Arab League decisions and the Arab initiative on Syria."

The Gulf states accounted for 54 of the 165 monitors in the Arab League mission to Syria, a GCC official said.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia decided on Sunday to pull out its observers.

Western governments have been capitalising on the Arab League's tough new stance to embark on a fresh drive for action by the Security Council.

Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig said it could mark a "game changer."

Wittig and the British and French ambassadors met counterparts from some Arab League nations late on Monday to map out the next moves at the UN.

The European countries have asked for the Security Council to request that Arab League chief Arabi brief the 15-member Council "as soon as possible", diplomats said.

The Security Council has been blocked for months over Syria. Russia and China vetoed a proposed European resolution in October saying it was the first steps toward enforced regime change.