Clinton: Time is Running Out For Syrian Government

Posted July 1st, 2011 at 5:00 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says time is running out for the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad as pro-democracy activists have urged Syrians to rally nationwide Friday and call for the president's ouster.

Clinton made the comments Friday at the “Community of Democracies'' gathering in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius. She said the government must make genuine reforms or face increased resistance.

Clinton said Mr. Assad's efforts to reach out to the opposition through one meeting earlier this week was not “sufficient.” She added that allowing an opposition meeting in Damascus while deploying tanks in the north was not sending a coherent message.

Syria has continued a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters calling for the president to step down. In the latest violence, security forces killed at least 12 people in two days during an ongoing military operation near the Turkish border in the country's northwest.

Rights activists said Thursday that Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters consolidated their hold on several villages in Idlib province.

Pro-government forces also appeared to prevent residents from crossing into Turkey, where more than 12,000 Syrians have fled to escape the violence in their homeland. Hundreds more Syrian refugees have left for Lebanon.

Turkish officials said only five Syrians made it across the border Thursday, the lowest number in days.

Elsewhere, in Syria's second largest city, Aleppo, video footage posted to the Internet showed pro-government gangs attacking hundreds of protesters in at least two locations Thursday. It was the first time anti-government protests broke out in the key city.

Plainclothes police dispersed the crowds, and allowed government supporters to hold a counter-demonstration.

A Facebook group of pro-democracy activists called for Thursday's anti-government rallies in Aleppo and urged Syrians to protest again on Friday.

Details of events in Syria are difficult to independently confirm because the government allows very few foreign news reporters into the country and restricts their movements.

Rights groups say more than 1,400 people have been killed in the violence, most of them unarmed protesters.