Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, during his visit to wounded troops who injured in clashes with rebels against his regime, at Youssef al-Azmaha military hospital, in Damascus January 31, 2012, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/SANA Handout (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, during his visit to troops wounded in clashes with rebels. Photo: Reuters

RUSSIA has warned Arab leaders against crossing a ''red line'' in trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said it wasn't the United Nations' job to dictate who stays in power and who goes.

Arab League leaders, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European foreign ministers have called for the Security Council, including Russia, to adopt an Arab-European plan calling on Mr Assad to cede his authority to a deputy who would start talks with the opposition within two months. ''The Arab League is now in the driver's seat; sometimes you can press the accelerator too hard and you find yourself in a ditch,'' Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said.

''The Security Council cannot prescribe ready recipes for the outcome of domestic political processes.''

Syria was at the centre of talks at the world body almost a year after an uprising began against Mr Assad.

The UN says more than 5400 people have been killed in the conflict.

Meanwhile, in Syria, hundreds of government troops controlled the mostly deserted streets of suburban Douma, east of Damascus, crouching behind sandbags and manning checkpoints. After a week of fighting, the army defectors who had been challenging them have fled to the countryside, hundreds of young men have been arrested, and many families have left.

But unarmed government opponents in Douma vowed to keep protesting until the fall of President Assad, staging a demonstration at the funeral of four men killed in fighting last week despite the shift back to army control.

''We must pray from the depths of our heart to be victorious,'' cried one speaker, his voice rising over a crowd of several hundred people who had gathered in the evening in a square outside the Great Mosque in Douma. ''If he doesn't say that he will give up power, we will slaughter him,'' the speaker shouted, referring to Mr Assad, who was shown visiting a Damascus military hospital in pictures distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA.