Beirut: Syria said it "absolutely rejects" any plans to send Arab troops into the country after the Gulf nation of Qatar proposed the idea to stop mounting deaths in the uprising against President Bashar Assad.
   
Syria's response showed it was feeling the growing international pressure to halt its deadly military crackdown on dissent. The US piled on more pressure yesterday, with a senior Obama administration official saying a recent visit by the commander of Iran's powerful Quds Force to Damascus is the strongest sign yet that Washington's arch foe Tehran is supplying weapons to aid Assad's crackdown.
   
Qatar's leader, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, was the first Arab head of state to call for military intervention in Syria. On Sunday, he was quoted as saying Arab troops should be deployed there.
   
"The Syrian people reject any foreign intervention in its affairs, under any title, and would confront any attempt to infringe upon Syria's sovereignty and the integrity of its territories," a Foreign Ministry statement said.
   
The UN says more than 5,400 people have been killed since the anti-government uprising began 10 months ago one of a string of revolts in the Arab world again long-ruling authoritarian regimes. The regime says 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed.
   
Activists said at least 18 people were killed on Tuesday, and six Syrian soldiers were killed late on Monday near the capital Damascus. The activists said most of Tuesday's dead were shot by security forces or pro-regime gunmen. The reports could not be independently verified. Attacks also were reported for a fifth day in the Damascus suburb of Zabadani, near the border with Lebanon.
   
Syria is Iran's closest ally in the Middle East, something that makes its uprising potentially more explosive for the region than other Arab Spring revolts.
   
The US has long said Iran is helping drive the Syrian military crackdown. And the Obama administration official said the visit by Quds Force Commander Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani provides a concrete example of direct, high-level cooperation between Iran and Syria. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.

(Agencies)