More Syria demos called as pressure mounts on Assad

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Bashar al-Assad
Damascus, Aug 19: Syrian anti-regime activists called for fresh protests after the weekly Muslim prayers today (Aug 19), as US President Barack Obama led a chorus of calls for Syria's autocratic leader to step down.

The protests, which weekly draw tens of thousands onto Syria's streets calling for the fall of Bashar al-Assad's regime, will test the president's commitment that his security forces have ended operations against civilians.

Only hours after Assad gave the commitment to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, his security forces yesterday night opened fire to disperse an anti-regime protest in the central city of Homs, killing at least one person and wounding another, according to an activist on the scene.

Security forces also deployed in numbers in several locations after Thursday evening prayers, including the suburbs of Damascus, where protests were reported and shots were heard, a rights group said.

Facebook group The Syrian Revolution 2011, one of the drivers of the protests, said today's rallies will be held under the slogan, "Friday of the beginnings of victory."

The civilian death toll from the security force crackdown on the protests has now passed 2,000, UN under secretary general B Lynn Pascoe told the UN Security Council yesterday.

Frustrated that international calls for a halt to the bloodletting were being snubbed by Damascus, Obama called for Assad to quit and slapped harsh new sanctions on Syria, freezing state assets and blacklisting the oil and gas sector.

AFP

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