The Arab League called on the Syrian army to stop the killing of civilians on Saturday and said it was suspending Syria from the regional body in a surprise move that turns up the heat on President Bashar al-Assad.

The league will impose economic and political sanctions on Assad's government and has appealed to its member states to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus, said Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim.

He said the suspension would take effect on Nov. 16.

We were criticized for taking a long time, but this was out of our concern for Syria, he told reporters in Cairo. We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions.

We are calling all Syrian opposition parties to a meeting at the Arab League headquarters to agree a unified vision for the transitional period, Jassim said.