MOSCOW - Russia should halt arms sales to Syria and UN sanctions could be needed to force President Bashar Assad and rebels fighting to oust him to implement a failing peace plan, a senior Arab League official was quoted as saying on Thursday.

The UN observer mission in Syria, which suspended operations on Saturday because of the rising violence, should be replaced by peacekeepers, the League's deputy secretary general Ahmed Ben Helli told Interfax news agency in an interview.

"Any assistance in aiding violence should be stopped. When you deliver military equipment you are helping to kill people. That should be stopped," Interfax on Thursday quoted him as saying in response to a question about Russian military cooperation with Syria.

Russia, one of Assad's main suppliers of military equipment, has shielded its long-standing ally Syria from tougher UN sanctions. It says the transfers are unrelated to the conflict inside Syria, something US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed on June 13 as "patently untrue."

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