France condemns Syria violence, urges restraint

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France on Monday condemned deadly assaults by Syrian security forces in recent days against anti-government protestors and urged Damascus not to resort to deadly force.

"France calls on the Syrian authorities to immediately renounce the use of force... and without delay to put in place a reform programme that responds to the aspirations of the population," a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

"Reform and repression are not compatible," she told reporters.

An unprecedented opposition movement erupted in Syria on March 15 challenging the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been in power since 2000, to introduce major political reforms.

Anti-regime demonstrations and clashes with security forces raged across the country on Friday leaving 28 dead, including 26 in the city of Daraa, according to a toll compiled by six Syrian rights groups.

On Monday, Syrian troops encircled the flashpoint coastal town of Banias, where weekend shootings left 13 dead and scores wounded, a human rights activist said.

© 2011 AFP

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