Syria Braces for Anti-Government Protests

Posted September 9th, 2011 at 11:16 am (UTC-5)
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Syria braced for anti-government protests across the country on Friday, while Russia indicated it may be willing to consider a U.N. Security Council resolution that sends a “strong message” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The French news agency quotes rights activists as saying security forces manning a checkpoint in a northwestern village opened fire and killed a teenage boy on Friday. The news organization says the incident took place as demonstrators prepared to rally after Friday prayers.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev indicated that Moscow may be open to a Security Council resolution that sends Mr. Assad a “strong message,” but only if it also addresses anti-government protesters.

He told Euronews television on Thursday that the Syrian government's “disproportionate use of force” and “high toll of casualties” are unacceptable.

But he also expressed concern at the actions of anti-Assad protesters, saying some of them should be considered “terrorists.”

Russia has previously opposed attempts by Western governments to pass a U.N. Security resolution against Mr. Assad, instead preferring their own draft urging Syria to implement democratic reforms.

On Friday, Syrian opposition leader Ammar Qurabi expressed disappointment at Russia's lack of support. Qurabi said he expects Russia to play a “more active and positive role in regulating the political situation in Syria.”

Qurabi and a delegation of Syrian opposition leaders were in Moscow Friday visiting with Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov. Mr. Margelov plans to meet with an aide to Mr. Assad on Monday.

On Thursday, Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters continued when troops raided a residence in the northwestern village of Ibleen, killing three military defectors.

The state-run SANA news agency said Thursday that eight law enforcement and security force members were killed by “armed terrorist groups” in the city of Homs. Mr. Assad's government has blamed much of the deadly violence on armed gunmen and terrorists.

The United Nations estimates 2,200 people have been killed since March after Mr. Assad launched the crackdown on dissent.