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Syrian Amnesty Begins, More Deadly Protests


Soldiers are seen at an army checkpoint in Hula, near Homs, Syria, November 4, 2011.

Soldiers are seen at an army checkpoint in Hula, near Homs, Syria, November 4, 2011.

The Syrian government began a week-long amnesty program Saturday for citizens who have sold or possessed weapons.

The Interior Ministry announced the amnesty Friday, the same day that activists said security forces killed at least 19 people as anti-government protesters rallied across the country.

The government says under the amnesty, citizens who have not committed murder will be released soon after they turn themselves in to police and hand over their weapons.

However, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland advised Syrians not to turn themselves in to authorities.

In a Friday briefing, Nuland also questioned the Syrian government's commitment to an Arab League plan brokered on Wednesday that calls for a halt to violence and talks between the government and the opposition.

France also voiced skepticism about Syria's commitment to the plan. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that Syria's "continuing repression" would only strengthen the international community's doubts about Damascus' "sincerity" in implementing the peace plan.

Activists say most of Friday's protest-related deaths took place in the Damascus area and in the central Homs region. They say Syrian forces in tanks re-entered the flashpoint Homs district on Friday and opened fire, killing at least three people.

Activists blamed pro-government forces for at least 12 deaths in Homs on Thursday.

The United Nations says the number of people killed during the eight-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has topped 3,000.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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