|Obama said the time for UN inaction against the Syrian government 'is over' [Reuters]
The US president has called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on the government of Bashar al-Assad, as Syrian activists said that government forces had killed at least three civilians in the country's northwest.
The deaths in Jabal al-Zawiya, and the province of Homs, were reported just hours before Barack Obama addressed the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.
Obama said the Syrian government must be punished for its bloody crackdown on civilian protests, which entered their sixth month last week.
"For the sake of Syria - and the peace and security of the world - we must speak with one voice," he said.
"Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people."
The Security Council's response to months of violence in Syria was a statement condemning Assad for turning his forces against his people.
But the panel remains divided over sanctions against Assad and his government.
Obama, whose administration imposed sanctions on the Syrian leader, his family and his government, and last month called on him to leave power, said there was no excuse for inaction.
"As we meet here today, men, women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime," he said.
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"Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria's borders.
"The question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?"
His comments came a day after an Arab parliamentary body called for the suspension of the membership of Syria and Yemen in the Arab League in a bid to put pressure on the two countries to heed popular demands for reforms.
The call was put out on Tuesday following a committee meeting of the Arab Parliament, a body to which members of the Arab League send representatives.
The head of the parliamentary committee, which met at the Arab League's headquarters in Cairo, said that "mass slaughter" was taking place in Syria and Yemen and called on the league to deal with the countries in a similar way to how it dealt with Libya.
After a crackdown by the government of Muammar Gaddafi on pro-democracy protesters, the Arab League suspended Libya's Arab League membership in February.
"We call on the Arab states to freeze the membership of Damascus in the Arab League and urge the Arab leaders to take more active stands in that regard if the Syrian leadership did not ... stop violence and withdraw its security forces and army ... and form a national unity government from all political powers," said Tawfik Abdallah of the Arab Parliamentarians Political Affairs and National Security Committee.
The parliamentary committee was careful to specify that it was not calling for foreign intervention, such as the NATO imposed no-fly zone on Libya that was initially supported by the Arab League.
The recommendations of the committee of parliamentarians are not binding, but the forceful steps called for by the body would represent a significant strengthening of the Arab League's approach to Syria and Yemen if adopted.
The latest figures released by the U human rights office on Monday indicated that Syrian security forces have killed 2,700 protesters since the start of a the uprising in March, including at least 100 children.