Syria requested the 11th-hour postponement of a planned visit by the Arab League chief to press for an end to its bloody crackdown on dissent as security forces killed four more people on Tuesday.
Syria said that circumstances had forced it to postpone Wednesday's visit by Nabil al-Arabi in which he had been due to present an Arab League reform initiative of which Damascus has been strongly critical.
"Syria has asked Arab League secretary general Nabil al-Arabi to delay his visit to Damascus due to circumstances beyond our control," the official SANA news agency said late on Tuesday.
"He has been informed of those circumstances and a new date will be set for his visit," the news agency added.
Arabi had been commissioned by the 22-member bloc to travel to Damascus on Wednesday with a 13-point document outlining proposals to end the government's bloody crackdown on dissent and push Syria to launch reforms.
The initiative, agreed at an Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo last month, calls for a "clear declaration of principles by President Bashar al-Assad specifying commitment to reforms he made in past speeches."
The initiative angered Syria which said it contained "unacceptable and biased language."
Assad has pledged reforms and in August issued a decree allowing opposition political parties alongside the ruling Baath party in power since 1963 with the constitutional status of "the leader of state and society."
But his regime insists its policies will not be dictated from abroad.
Arabi said Tuesday that he had been instructed by the Arab League "to carry a clear message to the Syrian authorities about the situation in Syria and the need to stop the violence and launch immediate reforms."
Arab foreign ministers held a special meeting on Syria on August 27 and called on Damascus "to follow the way of reason before it is too late" and to respect "the right of the Syrian people to live in security."