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Syrian forces open fire to disperse protesters

Syrian forces fired tear gas and live bullets as mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad continued. Assad said he would soon deliver a speech to address political reforms and the recent violent unrest.

Protesters voicing anger

Protesters have been marching in the streets for weeks

Security forces once again opened fire Monday to disperse anti-government protesters in the southern city of Daraa, where up to 60 people have reportedly been killed over the past 10 days.

It comes as the country waits to hear from President Bashar al-Assad on his plans for and the extent of a number of political concessions. Vice President Farouq al-Shara said the Syrian leader would announce important decisions that will "please the Syrian people" in the next 48 hours.

The authoritarian regime announced a series of reforms last Thursday, including the release of activists detained during the recent unrest. On Sunday, it announced a plan to bring emergency rule - in force since 1963 - to an end, and to lift restrictions on other political parties.

Amateur video of demonstration

Deraa has become a focal point for protests

The prime minister of neighboring Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Monday he had spoken with Assad and urged him to "answer the people's calls with a reformist, positive approach."

Over the weekend, security forces entered the coastal city of Latakia, where officials claimed that 15 people had died in a campaign of terror.

The Assad regime claims it has deployed troops in a bid to stop violence by foreign-backed "armed groups" seeking to create instability.

Protesters say that the violence, by rooftop snipers and street gangs armed with knives, is being carried out at the behest of security forces.

The Baath Party has been in power in Syria for almost 50 years, with Assad in control for the last 11 following the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Author: Rob Mudge, Darren Mara (AFP, Reuters, AP)
Editor: Michael Knigge

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