More huge demonstrations in Syria

HUGE demonstrations have rocked Syria, including a rally urging Russia to stop arms sales to the regime and another in support of an official who resigned in protest at the government’s brutal crackdown, activists say.

The protests came as the European Union adopted a ban on crude oil imports from Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its brutal repression of protesters, diplomats told AFP.

The embargo will take effect on November 15 for existing supply contracts after Italy demanded a delay, the diplomats said.

The protesters across Syria responded to calls posted on the internet for nationwide anti-regime demonstrations after the weekly Friday prayers under the banner of “death rather than humiliation.”

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) said demonstrators rallied outside the home of the attorney general of the flashpoint rebellious province of Hama in support of his reported decision to resign.

Mohammed Adnan al-Bakkour said in a contested video posted on YouTube late Wednesday that he has resigned in disgust at hundreds of killings and thousands of arrests by Assad’s regime.

He said he decided after hundreds of jailed, peaceful demonstrators were killed by the authorities and buried in mass graves, and 10,000 were arrested arbitrarily.

But Syrian officials say he had been kidnapped and announced he was quitting under duress.

The LCC said in a statement that “huge demonstrations” from the Hama province villages of Kfar Nabudah and Karnaz formed outside Bakkour’s home “to support him.”

Another march took off from the northern city of Amuda, with protesters calling for the “fall of the regime” and some carrying signs “urging Russia to stop exporting sales to the (Syrian) regime,” the LCC said.

The marchers staged a sit-in in Amuda’s central square, it added.

Women took to the streets in the southern Syrian town of Jassem, in the Daraa province where the pro-democracy protests shaking Syria since mid-March first broke out, the LCC said, adding that gunfire could be heard.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported gunfire in Nawa, Daraa province, and spoke of injuries without elaborating.

“Security forces are blocking worshippers from leaving Al-Hajar Mosque to take part in demonstrations,” the Observatory said.

Protests also broke out in the central protest hub of Homs, the Observatory said.

Meanwhile, France said Friday it planned to boost its contacts with the opposition in Syria to try and bring an end to the bloody crackdown on anti-regime protests.

“We will develop our contacts with the opposition,” Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a French ambassadors’ meeting.

“We will not let up on our efforts to bring an end to the repression and to secure a democratic dialogue.”

Juppe did not elaborate on how France would boost its contacts with Syrian dissidents, who established a “national council” to coordinate a campaign to topple the ruling regime in Istanbul last month.

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