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Syria Lifts Emergency Rule as Forces Deploy in Homs

Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) handout photo shows people gathering for funeral of two people allegedly killed in recent clashes in Homs, north of Damascus on Apr 19 2011

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ratified a law that ends almost 50 years of emergency rule on Thursday, the same day the government deployed security forces in the central city of Homs.

Syria's state-run media announced that Assad had signed the measure, which was passed by the government on Tuesday. But, while moving to end the law, the government also threatened harsh reprisals if unrest in the country continues.

Syria's emergency rule banned demonstrations, restricted the media and allowed eavesdropping. Ending the restrictions was a main demand of anti-government protesters.
Meanwhile, witnesses say soldiers and plainclothes security forces began taking up positions in Homs on Thursday, ahead of nationwide anti-government protests planned for Friday.

Witnesses say most shops remained closed in the city for a third day after opposition activists called for a general strike.

VOA Senior Correspondent Gary Thomas discusses the issue of U.S. funding for opposition groups in other countries in an interview with Susan Yackee:

Activists say several protesters were killed in Homs Tuesday when security forces opened fire on a sit-in demonstration. Another 12 people were killed in Sunday violence.

Syrian state media reported Thursday that President Assad has named a new governor of Homs province, Ghassan Mustafa Abdul-Aal, two weeks after he dismissed the previous governor.

Separately, witnesses say a small anti-government protest took place on Thursday in the northeastern, mostly-Kurdish region of Hasaka.

President Assad has announced a number of reforms in recent weeks to try to meet the demands of protesters, but his efforts have failed to stop the opposition movement.

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

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