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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Syria crack down


Syrians set out to draft new constitution amid clashes

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 30, 2011 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)


Syrian Protesters


(CNN) -- Syrians aiming to write a new constitution for the strife-torn country will meet for the first time on Monday, the state news agency reported Sunday, after a weekend of intense violence.
President Bashar al-Assad earlier this month announced the formation of a committee to draft a new constitution within four months, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported at the time.
The October 15 announcement was one of several moves the government has made to defuse protests, but they have not calmed the situation in the country.
Government forces killed six people they described as terrorists Saturday, and arrested 20, the SANA reported Sunday.
SANA said four members of the security forces had been killed in the clashes.
Opposition activists, meanwhile, said at least 21 people were killed, including at least 11 who died when Syrian forces pounded the western city of Homs with tanks, sustaining fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Four people were killed in Hama and one each in Hasaka, Daraa, Idlib, Keseh, Zabadany and Deir Ezzor, according to the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria, an opposition group that organizes and documents protests in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 10 civilian deaths in Homs on Saturday.
The fierce fighting has been ongoing between armed military defectors and loyalist forces, said Rami Abdel Rahman, president of the London-based group.
More than 3,000 people have died since unrest broke out in Syria in mid-March, according to the United Nations.
CNN cannot independently confirm individual accounts of violence because Syria's government restricts the activity of journalists.
Also Saturday, the Sunday Telegraph published an interview with embattled President al-Assad, which it said was his first with a Western journalist since the start of the uprising seven months ago.
In it, the president warns Western countries not to intervene in his country.
"Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake. ... Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?
"Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region," said al-Assad, the British newspaper reported.
While he admitted "many mistakes" had been made, the president also defended his security forces.
"We have very few police, only the army, who are trained to take on al-Qaeda," al-Assad told the Sunday Telegraph. "If you sent in your army to the streets, the same thing would happen. Now, we are only fighting terrorists. That's why the fighting is becoming much less."
Saturday's clashes erupted after Friday's massive demonstration in Hama where Syrians demanded an end to al-Assad's rule and called for his prosecution.
Demonstrators also called on the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone, naval blockade and other measures to protect Syrian protesters.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Friday's killings. He said the deaths of more than 3,000 people killed since the start of the Syrian uprising amounts to an "alarming" toll.
Ban appealed for an end to military operations against civilians.




Harmoush Disappearance.

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