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Mass marches of Assad’s supporters and opponents pass in Syria

December 31, 2011, 12:52 UTC+3

According to information of human rights activists, police repeatedly used tear gas in some suburbs

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TEL AVIV, December 31 (Itar-Tass) — A wave of “peaceful marches for freedom”, organized by the opposition, swept across Syria on the last “Friday of wrath” of the outgoing year.

At the same time, government supporters took to the streets in several cities – Damascus, Aleppo, Raqqa, Al-Gaziq and Tarous ; and their demonstrations were also numerous. Rally participants chanted slogans in support of Bashar Assad and the programme of reforms announced by him. The situation was tense in the Damascus suburbia.

According to information of human rights activists, police repeatedly used tear gas in some suburbs.

Arab League observers monitor the situation in five provinces of the country, gripped with anti-government unrest. Reports were received that experts turned to be in the thick of things. For instance they witnessed a multi-thousand demonstration in Idlib (located 330 kilometres north of Damascus). Its demonstrators demanded an overthrow of the ruling regime.

The Al-Jazeera TV channel reported that Arab observers visited the city of Harasta near Damascus, where there were also stormy streets marches. Disorders took place in the capital’s Kurdish area of Berzi where police detachments were dispatched. The situation was troublesome in other residential areas of Damascus where positions of Islamists are strong.

In the meantime, arguments are bandied at the UN about Syria. Western countries try to achieve introduction of sanctions against Damascus at the UN Security Council in the hope of making the Assad government more docile to outside pressure. This is clear from the text of amendments, submitted by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the US to the Russian draft resolution of the UN Security Council on Syria.

Meanwhile, diplomats at the UN note that Russian chief delegate to the UN Vitaly Churkin clearly intimated at a news conference last Friday that Russia would veto at the Security Council a sanctioned anti-Syrian resolution. The idea of sanctions should be ditched, since “this will not just happen”, said the Russian ambassador.

It was made public against this background that a conference on a national dialogue in Syria will take place at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo early in January 2012. It will be attended by representatives of the government and opposition groups. Such a forum which is to determine the outlines of the country’s transition to a democratic multi-party rule, is envisaged by “a road map” on pulling out of the crisis, worked out by Arab ministers in October.

Following relative stabilization of the situation in Bahrain late in March, thousands of Bahrain Shiites staged on Friday a demonstration, demanding the government’s resignation. They marched six kilometers along streets in the northern part of the country’s capital Manama.

Protesters also demanded putting into the dock police officers,

Involved in the murder of over 30 participants in anti-government actions last February-March.

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