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China Urges All Sides in Syria to End Violence

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun in Damascus, February 18, 2012.

China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun has called on all sides in Syria to end the violence and allow elections to proceed peacefully.

Zhai - who spoke in the capital, Damascus, following a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad - says China calls on the government, the opposition and those with arms for an immediate stop to the violence.

He says Beijing is hopeful that the upcoming referendum on a new constitution, as well as parliamentary elections, will take place calmly.

China and Russia have both refused to condemn Syria over its crackdown on dissent, which has killed more than 6,000 people since last March.

The U.N. General Assembly on Thursday passed a resolution, approved by 137 of the assembly's 193 member states, calling on Mr. Assad's autocratic government to "immediately put an end to attacks against civilians."

On Friday, Syrian activists said Syrian troops shelled four neighborhoods in the central city of Homs. The city has spearheaded the 11-month uprising against President Assad. Activists also say demonstrations in defiance of Assad's government have sprung up in several cities throughout the country, including the capital, Damascus.

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

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