CAIRO (Reuters) - The head of the Arab League said Monday the Syrian army's use of heavy weapons against civilians was an escalation that edged the country toward civil war.

"We follow with great anxiety and irritation developments in the field situation in Syria, and the escalation of military operations in the city of Homs and rural areas of Damascus, and the Syrian armed forces' use of heavy weapons against civilians," Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said in a statement.

In the statement published by the Egyptian state news agency, Elaraby said the escalation took the crisis in Syria in "a serious direction," adding that it pushed "conditions toward a slide toward civil war."

The Arab League had sent an observer mission to Syria to monitor its implementation of a deal brokered by the Arab body and aimed at halting the unrest there, but froze the monitoring operation on January 28 because of worsening violence.

An Arab foreign ministers' meeting called to discuss the situation in Syria was postponed by one day to February 12, the League said in a separate statement Monday. The delay was requested by Gulf states which are holding their own meeting on February 11 in Riyadh.

(Writing by Tom Perry)