CAIRO, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Arab and international rights groups said on Wednesday the Arab League should suspend Syria's membership because of its violent crackdown on opposition to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
The statement by 176 groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the Arab League should support UN Security Council travel bans and freezing of assets, as well as enforce its own arms embargo.
"Citizens of the Arab world share the desire to see an end to the bloodshed in Syria and to see the Arab League act as the leading regional organization to protect and uphold the common values of the Arab world at this critical and historical moment," they said in a letter to Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.
"We urge the League to support sanctions against Syria and its rulers, including through the UN Security Council. We believe that the LAS can help bring an end to the ongoing human rights violations in Syria by... suspending Syria's membership rights at the Arab League, including the right to vote."
Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Tuesday called for "immediate change" in Syria and an end to the violence after months of army attempts to suppress pro-democracy protesters who the government says are dominated by armed gangs.
Elaraby told reporters that he had discussed an Arab League fact-finding mission to Syria in a meeting with Assad last week. He said Assad was "responsive" but the League would only be prepared to send a delegation once the crackdown stopped.
Writing by Andrew Hammond