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Mass protests staged across Syria, 16 killed

Sunday, August 14, 2011
AFP


DAMASCUS--Syrian security forces opened fire Friday killing at least 16 people as thousands of anti-regime protesters rallied in flashpoint cities after the Ramadan weekly prayers, rights activists said.

As the West grapples with ways to pressure Damascus into ending the bloodshed, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged countries to stop trading with Syria.

“We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons ... to get on the right side of history,” Clinton told reporters.

In an interview with CBS News, she suggested that China and India impose energy sanctions on Syria, and urged Russia to stop selling arms to Damascus, which has bought weapons from Moscow for decades.

She also urged the Europeans to impose energy sanctions.

“President Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead and it is clear that Syria would be better off without him,” Clinton told a press conference with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

But Clinton stopped short of explicitly urging Assad to step down — a call which U.S. officials have said President Barack Obama's administration has decided to make, although it has not finalized the timing.

Clinton also said U.S. ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, delivered a “clear message” to the Syrian government, alluding to his meeting Thursday with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

“Immediately stop the violence, withdraw your security forces, respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a democratic transition in concrete and meaningful ways,” she said, reading out the message.

In Syria, Friday's hail of lead against protesters came in defiance of warnings by the United States that Syria will face further sanctions if it does not stop killing protesters.

A man was shot dead in a dawn assault on the Damascus suburb of Saqba while a woman died when troops opened fire in the town of Kahn Sheikhun in northwestern Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In Bensh, also in Idlib, a woman who was shot by security forces on Tuesday succumbed to her wounds.

A man was killed by a sniper on Friday in the central city of Homs and a bus full of passengers fleeing to Lebanon came under fire from “pro-regime militants,” an activist at the scene said, adding some were wounded.

As thousands poured out of mosques after the noon prayers in the central city of Hama, security forces sprayed them with gunfire, killing two civilians and wounding three others, the Britain-based Observatory said.

“Thousands of people marched in Hama despite a higher presence of security forces. We left from the mosque to the Al-Manakh Square and they shot at us. People were wounded and several others were arrested,” an activist told AFP.

At least 100 people died in Hama when troops backed by tanks stormed the city on July 31, the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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