Activists say 20 dead in Syria violence

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Syria protest
Beirut, Feb 3: Deadly clashes erupted between government troops and rebels in suburbs of the Syrian capital and villages in the country's south today in fresh violence that killed at least 20 people, including nine soldiers, activists said.

President Bashar Assad is trying to crush the 11-month-old uprising against his rule with a sweeping crackdown. Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today that in its bid to snuff out the revolt, the regime has detained and tortured children as young as 13. With the violence in Syria growing increasingly chaotic, diplomatic efforts at the United Nations to find a solution to the crisis have gained pace.

In New York, a senior State Department official said today the US is "cautiously optimistic" of strong support for a new UN Security Council resolution condemning the bloodshed in Syria and calling for a political transition in the country.

The official said a draft resolution proposed late yesterday by Morocco would likely clear a Security Council vote later today or over the weekend, as it appeared to meet Russian concerns. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the diplomacy.

"From our perspective, this resolution fully supports the Syrian people and the Arab League," the official said. The Syrian conflict has grown more militarised in recent months as army defectors have joined the uprising against Assad and formed a guerrilla force. The armed resistance has in turn provoked a heavier regime assault on areas where defectors are based. 

AP

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