Aug 222011
 
Authors: McClatchey-Tribune

CAIRO — Eight people were killed Monday in Syria, according to activists, after President Bashar Assad repeated his promises on reform and said that the security situation in Syria had improved.

Six people were killed in the central city of Homs when security forces and pro-government thugs used force and live ammunition to disperse protesters, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Activists reported heavy machine gun fire in the city’s Khaldieh neighborhood.

A U.N. humanitarian mission had visited Homs on Monday.

“When the delegation left, security forces began shooting at civilians, and tanks and armored vehicles returned to their former locations in the city,” the international group Avaaz said. “At least 15 people were arrested.”

In the city of Hama, two people were shot by the thugs, known as Shabiha, who were celebrating an address by Assad on state television.

Assad’s loyalists attacked shops owned by anti-government protesters in Hama.

Late Sunday, Assad played down continued pro-democracy protests demanding his ouster, saying Syria had emerged stronger from the crisis.

Two laws on political pluralism and elections in Syria would take effect next week, he said: “The parliamentary elections can be held next February.”

Assad warned of the consequences of any military action against Syria, dismissing calls for him to step down as “worthless.”

At least 1,890 civilians and 425 security personnel have been killed in the past four months, according to human rights advocates. It is difficult to verify these reports, as Syrian authorities have barred most foreign media and international observers from the country.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Assad told him in a telephone conversation on Wednesday that the operations against demonstrators had stopped, broadcaster Al-Jazeera reported.

“It’s troubling that he has not kept his words,” Ban told reporters.

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