CAIRO - Arab foreign ministers will discuss a proposal next week to send a joint UN-Arab mission to Syria, a senior Arab League official said on Thursday, after a solely Arab team failed to end President Bashar Assad's crackdown on protests.

Ministers meet in Cairo on Sunday to consider whether to extend or scrap an observer mission sent to Syria in December but which was criticized by Syria's opposition, faced internal dissent and retreated to hotels for safety as violence surged.

One Arab diplomat said the ministerial meeting could also issue a statement on a decision by Russia and China to veto a UN Security Council resolution that was based on an Arab peace plan and which had the backing of Western powers. The Russian and Chinese veto drew Arab criticism.

Syrian government artillery barrages killed dozens of civilians in Homs in central Syria on Thursday, activists said. Damascus has ignored appeals to halt the carnage.

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