Syria must stop excessive force against protesters: France

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France called on Syria Wednesday to "stop all excessive use of force" against protesters and condemned actions that led to several deaths overnight, the foreign ministry said.

"France condemns the violence which has resulted in deaths and injuries among protesters last night in Daraa," ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

The ministry called for "a transparent investigation of events over the last few days", he said, adding Syria "must stop all excessive use of force."

France also said the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, under increasing pressure from anti-government protests, needed to begin genuine reforms.

"Political reforms must be undertaken without hesitation to answer the aspirations expressed by the Syrian people," Valero said.

Syrian security forces fired early Wednesday on anti-regime protesters near a mosque in the flashpoint southern town of Daraa, killing five and wounding scores, rights activists said.

The government blamed a "gang" for the violence.

The country -- which is under a 1963 emergency law banning demonstrations -- has for the past week seen a string of unprecedented protests demanding that Bashar al-Assad step down.

© 2011 AFP

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