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Syrian Forces, Rebels Clash Near Damascus

Syrian Parliament speaker Mohammed Jihad al-Laham (R) and his Iranian counterpart Ali Larijani speak to the media in Damascus, Syria, November 23, 2012.
Activists say battles are raging between Syrian forces and rebels struggling to maintain control of neighborhoods south of the capital, Damascus.

The fighting comes as Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Friday for talks. Larijani also met Friday with his Syrian counterpart, Jihad al-Laham. State media said the Iranian speaker accused regional powers of causing "problems" in Syria and emphasized the need for democratic reform.

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Syrian rights activists said Thursday more than 40,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since the uprising against Mr. Assad began in March of last year.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the death toll includes about 28,000 civilians and rebel fighters. It also includes more than 10,000 Syrian soldiers, nearly 1,400 defectors and about 600 unidentified people.