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Syrian protesters call for international intervention

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CAIRO – Thousands of Syrian protesters turned out across the country Friday to call for international intervention against President Bashar al-Assad, a shift that reflects their increasing desperation, activists said.

While stopping short of calling for a military campaign of the sort that last month helped topple Libya’s longtime leader, Moammar Gaddafi, many protesters appeared to feel a growing sense that they will not be able to topple Assad on their own. Some activists warned that residents were growing closer to taking up arms, potentially igniting a civil war that could reverberate around the region.

Instead, they said, they wanted the international community to increase pressure on Assad to step down. Many protesters marched behind banners that called for “international protection.” They shouted similar slogans, and in at least one case, apparently in a suburb of Damascus, also chanted “the people want to execute the president,” according to videos of the protests posted Friday on YouTube.

“We really want the international community to interfere in this to stop the crimes against us,” said an activist in Homs, a western city of 1.3 million that has been under siege for the past week. “They are massacring us; they are eliminating us.”

Eleven protesters were killed Friday, most in Homs, according to activist networks that track the daily toll. Residents have described snipers on the tops of tall buildings and armored vehicles roaming the streets.

Volunteers at hospitals in Homs have said that blood banks have refused to give blood to hospitals treating wounded protesters. Some doctors have said that security forces have arrested wounded people at hospitals, the Associated Press reported.

International pressure has slowly mounted against Assad as the conflict has dragged on, and even his close allies appear to be pressing him to make some concessions to the protesters, who have called for an end to his rule.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed Friday that a summit be held in Tehran to resolve the crisis, the Associated Press reported. Iran, a major backer of Syria, offered unusually blunt criticism of its ally this week, with Ahmadinejad saying “there should be talks” between the government and the protesters, according to a wire translation of his remarks to a Portuguese broadcaster. “A military solution is never the right solution,” he said.

Special correspondent Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.

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