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Protesters Gather in Several Syrian Cities


Syrians anti and pro-Assad protesters clash after Friday prayers in Damascus, March 25, 2011

Syrians anti and pro-Assad protesters clash after Friday prayers in Damascus, March 25, 2011

Protesters demanding freedom massed throughout Syria on Friday - including the capital Damascus and a southern flashpoint town that has been a hub of demonstrations against Baath Party rule.

In Daraa, near the Jordanian border, hundreds were marching in what organizers call a "Day of Dignity.'' Media reports say there was no visible security presence on the streets where at least 15 people died in protests this week.

At least 200 people demonstrated in Damascus after Friday prayers in support of the people of Daraa. The Reuters news agency reported dozens of arrests.

The Syrian government said Thursday that it will consider ending the country's emergency law as part of a series of reforms.

Protesters have been demanding that President Bashar al-Assad end the emergency law, curb Syria's pervasive security apparatus, free political prisoners and allow freedom of expression.

The United States has condemned what it calls the Syrian government's "brutal repression of demonstrations," and urged authorities to respect the rights of the Syrian people.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Syria should follow the example of Egypt, where the army allowed pro-democracy demonstrations.

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