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Syrian Activists to Meet in Damascus Monday

Syrian Activists to Meet in Damascus Monday

Syrian Activists to Meet in Damascus Monday

More than 150 Syrian intellectuals and activists, including some of the country's most prominent opposition figures, will meet Monday in Damascus to discuss how to end the current violent upheaval and initiate a peaceful transition to democratic rule.

Those attending the planned gathering, the first to take place inside Syria during the anti-government uprising, say the meeting will be a discussion among independent figures with no ties to the government or any political parties.

It will include veteran figures such as Louay Hussein and Aref Dalila, who were among a group of four activists who previously met emissaries from President Bashar al-Assad but have refused further contact while the killing continues.

Some opposition figures have refused to attend Monday's conference, saying any sanctioned meeting could be used by Mr. Assad's government to "bestow legitimacy" on itself. One youth activist said any decisions made at the gathering "will have no bearing for protesters on the ground."

Syrian authorities were informed of the event and have not blocked it.

Meanwhile, a Syrian human rights group said security forces opened fire during funerals for slain political protesters, killing two people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the two were shot dead Saturday in al-Kaswa, south of the capital, Damascus. The group said troops began shooting when the funerals turned into protests.

Saturday's funerals were for anti-government protesters who died Friday when government forces opened fire, killing at least 20 people, including two children. Most of the deaths occurred in and around Damascus.

Demonstrators calling for Mr. Assad's ouster have been under assault by pro-government forces for more than 100 days.

More than 12,000 Syrians have fled into Turkey and hundreds more into Lebanon to escape the escalating violence in their homeland.

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