News / Middle East

Syrian Forces Kill 17; Huge Protests in Homs

Activists say Syrian security forces killed at least 17 people on Friday as more than 200,000 protesters rallied against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Activists say most of the deaths took place in the flashpoint Homs region, where a huge crowd gathered to voice opposition to the Arab League's decision to postpone an emergency meeting on Syria that was set for Saturday.

News organizations say the league postponed the foreign ministers' meeting to give Damascus more time to avoid sanctions by agreeing to a plan that could end the unrest.

The Syrian government countered the activists' account saying there were no deaths or "human rights injuries" on Friday. The state-run SANA news agency also said a pro-government rally took place in a western region.

Russia's Interfax news agency said Friday that a Syrian official, Vice President Faruq al-Shara, has been invited to Moscow for talks with Kremlin officials. On Thursday, Russia proposed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would condemn both the Syrian government and the opposition for violence linked to anti-government protests.

The U.N. estimates that some 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in February. Syria's U.N. ambassador has rejected that figure as "incredible."

In another development Friday, the United Nation's refugee agency [UNHCR] said more than 4,000 Syrians fleeing the government crackdown have poured into Lebanon. The agency said several hundred Syrians had crossed into the neighboring country within the past week.

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

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