Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's departure is inevitable, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

Almost all the Arab leaders, foreign ministers who I talk to say the same thing: Assad's rule is coming to an end. It is inevitable,''  Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Wastern affairs, told a Senate committee.

Some Arab leaders have told the United States that they are willing to give Assad refuge in exile to speed his departure from power. Some of these Arabs have even begun to offer Assad safe haven to encourage him to leave quickly,'' Feltman said.  He did not identify the countries that had offered to give asylum to Assad.

Meanwhile, violence continued in the streets of Syria. Earlier in the day, troops shot dead eight pro-democracy protesters and wounded 25 at a funeral in the capital, Damascus, activists said. The United Nations said he crackdown has killed 3,500 people so far. The authorities have banned most foreign media from the country since protests demanding Assad's removal erupted in March, making it hard to verify reports independently.

Western countries have effectively ruled out military action like the airstrikes that helped topple Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. Syria is not Libya,'' Feltman said. At the same time he expressed the fear that the transition to democracy in Syria could be long and difficult. Also of concern is the question of who might replace Assad once he is gone.