4 Killed in Syria, Annan plan ‘on track’

Posted May 4th, 2012 at 6:05 am (UTC-5)
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Rights activists say Syrian forces killed four civilians, on Friday, as a spokesman for international envoy Kofi Annan said a peace plan for Damascus was “on track” despite continued violence.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says forces opened fire on a vehicle in Hama, killing three people. The London-based group says forces shot and killed a fourth person in the Homs region.

Mr. Annan's spokesman, Ahmad Fazwi, told reporters in Geneva there were signs of compliance with the plan, which includes a cease-fire between government and opposition forces. He said the more than year-old political crisis would be “resolved in a day or a week.”

Meanwhile, opposition activists called for mass protests Friday, a day after at least two dozen people died in anti-government related unrest, including four civilians at Aleppo University.

Witnesses say pro-government students armed with knives attacked protesters at the university before security forces swept in, firing tear gas and live ammunition.

The violence comes as Syria prepares for parliamentary elections, on Monday, under constitutional reforms that have allowed the creation of new political parties.

VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott spoke to Syrians about the polling. She says some have low expectations, despite the reforms.

“There was one student who took the opportunity to say there's no one running who represents the people and they just weren't going to vote. And, certainly, attacks like the one that we heard about in Aleppo strengthen that sense of alienation.”

World powers have been tightening economic pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China to consider additional penalties against the Syrian government.

The State Department released her remarks as she wrapped up talks with high-level officials in Beijing. Both China and Russia have voiced reservations about imposing new sanctions on Syria through the U.N. Security Council.

The United Nations estimates at least 9,000 people have been killed in the crackdown, while the government says it has lost at least 2,600 of its forces to “foreign-backed terrorists.”