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UN Council to hold new Syria meeting

The UN Security Council will discuss human rights and a growing humanitarian emergency in Syria at a special meeting, diplomats announced as tens of thousands of protesters shouted for President Bashar Assad’s execution and more protesters were killed.

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UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay and UN under secretary for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, will brief the August 18 meeting, the French UN mission said in a Twitter statement.

France and other European countries on the 15 member council asked for the new meeting as part of efforts to maintain pressure for international action against President Bashar al-Assad.

The Security Council condemned the violence in Syria on August 3 and was given a briefing on Wednesday on events since.

A top UN official told the council that Assad had pursued his deadly crackdown on opposition protests in defiance of Security Council calls for an immediate end to violence.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Syrian protesters shouted for President Bashar Assad’s death on Friday in a dramatic escalation of their rage and frustration, defying bullets and rooftop snipers after more than a week of intensified military assaults on rebellious cities, activists and witnesses said.

Security forces killed at least 14 protesters, according to human rights groups.

The calls for Assad’s execution were a stark sign of how much the protest movement has changed since it erupted in March seeking minor reforms but making no calls for regime change.

The protests grew dramatically over the five months that followed, driven in part by anger over the government’s bloody crackdown in which rights groups say at least 1,700 civilians have been killed.

But with the regime shrugging off even the most blistering condemnation, the uprising has become a test of endurance as both sides draw on a deep well of energy and conviction. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday urged countries to stop buying Syrian oil and gas or selling the regime weapons, saying those who still do so must “get on the right side of history.”

In cities around Syria, protesters chanted, “The people want to execute the president!” during the now-familiar cycle of weekly demonstrations followed by a swift crackdown by the military, security forces and pro-government gunmen who operate on the regime’s behalf.

Security forces broke up protests quickly around the capital Damascus, in the central city of Homs and elsewhere, firing bullets and tear gas. Some areas saw only limited demonstrations because soldiers were deployed heavily in restive areas.

In a significant show of defiance, some of the largest protests on Friday were on the outskirts of the central city of Hama and in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, where government forces seized control in major military offensives during the past week. The fact that protesters still turned out was a signal that Assad’s forces cannot terrify protesters into staying home.

However, within Hama, protesters struggled to turn out in great numbers after soldiers clamped down heavily in the streets, witnesses said. Snipers were stationed on rooftops, and troops surrounded mosques and set up checkpoints to head off any marches.

“There are security checkpoints every 200 metres, they have lists and they’re searching people … the mosques are surrounded by soldiers,” a Hama-based activist told The Associated Press by telephone, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Dozens of soldiers deployed in Hama’s Assi Square, which had been the main converging point for hundreds of thousands of protesters in previous weeks, the activist said.

In the central city of Homs, more than a 1,000 soldiers, security agents and plainclothes policemen were deployed in the city’s main square.

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