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Syrian Demonstrations Grow as Assad Calls for Dialogue With Opposition

July 1, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
The nearly four-month-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria showed no sign of abating Friday. Margaret Warner reports on some of the largest protests yet, which came 10 days after President Assad offered a dialogue with the opposition.
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JIM LEHRER: In Syria, there was another Friday of protests and deadly responses, with reports of another 24 people killed, but also some gestures of reconciliation.

Margaret Warner has that story.

MARGARET WARNER: The nearly four-month-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad showed no sign of abating today, with some of the largest protests yet. In the city of Homs, marchers thundered cries of “Irhal,” or “Go,” a demand echoing across the Arab world this year aimed at longtime rulers.

Elsewhere in Homs, security forces fired on protesters from roadblocks. Large crowds also turned out in most other major Syrian cities in the now weekly protests after Friday prayers. In Hama, one sign told Assad, “Sorry, President. Game over.” Activists said more than 200,000 people filled the streets there.

In Damascus, demonstrators marched near the Great Mosque of Mezzeh and in other neighborhoods. The protests appeared peaceful, but clashes and deaths were reported as well. In the north, the Syrian army reportedly staged new attacks aimed at staunching the flow of refugees toward the Turkish border.

More than 10,000 Syrians are now at camps in southern Turkey. During a visit to Lithuania today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a new warning, “It is absolutely clear that the Syrian government is running out of time,” she said. “They are either going to allow a serious political process, or they are going to continue to see increasingly organized resistance.”

Despite international criticism and sanctions, the Assad regime’s crackdown has killed some 1,400 civilians nationwide. But 10 days ago, President Assad gave his third speech of the crisis, and offered a dialogue with the opposition. And some 200 government critics were allowed to meet this past Monday in Damascus.

TALAL AL-MAYHARNI, Syrian opposition member: Our demands is part — are part of the Syrian people, and our demands is the demands of the Syrian people.