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Gulf Bloc Calls for End to Syrian Bloodshed

Syrian protesters run after tear gas canisters are thrown in al-Malaab street in Homs, 165 km (100 miles) north of Damascus, in this still image taken from video posted on a social media website, August 4, 2011 (Reuters cannot independently verify the con

Gulf Arab states have broken their silence on the bloodshed in Syria, as activists say at least 26 more people were killed Friday in the government's crackdown on opposition protesters.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council issued a statement Saturday calling for an immediate end to the violence and for the implementation of reforms. The bloc includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The statement from the six nations followed a pledge by the U.S., France and Germany to consider additional ways to support the Syrian people and bring pressure against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A White House statement Friday said U.S. President Barack Obama spoke separately with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It said the three leaders condemned the continued use of "indiscriminate violence" against the Syrian people.

Tens of thousands of Syrians rallied against the government Friday - the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Protesters held demonstrations in Damascus, Homs, Dara'a, Deir el-Zour and other cities.

Meanwhile, more details are emerging about the situation in Hama, a city that has been under a military siege since Sunday. A political activist in the city told VOA Persian Service on Friday that government forces have been carrying out indiscriminate arrests and killings as they storm homes of activists. But he said anti-government demonstrators rallied on Friday in spite of the crackdown.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that Washington believes more than 2,000 people have been killed in the months-long effort to suppress dissent.

The Syrian government has blamed much of the violence on what it says are terrorists and militants.

In a statement Friday, U.N. human rights experts urged Syria to stop the killings and "pursue dialogue through peaceful processes."

President Assad issued a decree Thursday that would allow opposition parties to operate for the first time. The move would be a departure from Syria's single-party system that has been dominated for decades by the Assad family's Ba'ath party. But the U.S. State Department dismissed the announcement as "empty rhetoric."

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

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