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DAMASCUS - Protesters flooded streets across Syria on Friday, piling pressure on the regime to quit as the European

'We only kneel before God'

Syria activists call 'death rather than humiliation' demos as security forces continue crackdown.



 Union tightened the noose on the Damascus regime by slapping it with an oil embargo.

At least three people were killed and several more wounded when security forces opened fire to disperse anti-regime demonstrators in several parts of the country, activists said.

Meanwhile France announced plans to further isolate the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in protest at his government's crackdown on its opponents and said it will boost contacts with the opposition.

Spain also urged international support for opponents of the embattled Assad, following the success of the UN-backed action in Libya.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two people including a 16-year-old girl, were killed in Erbeen, a Damascus suburb, when security forces fired on demonstrators.

Three people were also wounded and reported in critical condition, said the Observatory, suggesting that the death toll will rise.

It also reported the death of one person in the town of Talbisseh, in the flashpoint central province of Homs, and said seven others were wounded when the security forces tried to quash a demonstration.

Activists said "huge demonstrations" rocked Syria on Friday, including a rally urging Russia to stop selling arms to the regime and another in support of an official who resigned in protest at the crackdown on dissent.

The protesters were responding 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 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 he resigned in disgust at hundreds of killings and mass burials and thousands of arrests by Assad's regime.

Syrian officials say Bakkour was kidnapped and made the announcement under duress.

The LCC also reported that protesters rallied in the central square of the northern city of Amuda demanding the "fall of the regime" while some carried signs "urging Russia to stop arms sales to the regime."

Protests were also reported in Daraa province, in the south, and in Aleppo province in the north where the funeral of a man killed on Thursday quickly became an anti-regime rally, the Observatory said.

Women took to the streets in the Daraa town of Jassem, the LCC said, while the Observatory said security forces blocked worshippers from leaving a mosque and taking part in protests in nearby Nawa.

In Brussels the European Union on Friday adopted a ban on crude oil imports from Syria to punish Assad's regime for its brutal repression of protesters.

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

The EU also expanded the list of individuals targeted by assets freezes and travel bans, adding four Syrian businessmen accused of bankrolling Assad's regime, as well as three companies, including a bank, they said.

An EU statement said the oil ban "concerns purchase, import and transport of oil and other petroleum products from Syria. No financial or insurance services may be provided for such transactions."

The EU buys 95 percent of Syria's crude oil and the embargo will deprive Assad's regime of a vital source of cash.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the world community should escalate pressure on Syria by targeting its oil and gas exports to force Assad from office.

"The violence must stop and he needs to step aside," Clinton said Thursday after France hosted a meeting on Libya, where strongman Moamer Kadhafi has already been forced from office.

Her call was echoed by Spain and France.

Later Thursday Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero urged international support for Syrians opposed to Assad, saying the opposition should get the world's "wholehearted backing" like Libyan rebels did.

"We will develop our contacts with the opposition," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Friday. "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 in Istanbul last month established a "national council" to coordinate a campaign to topple Assad.

According to the United Nations more than 2,200 people have been killed since the beginning of near-daily protests across the country against Assad's regime in mid-March.




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