3 Apr 2011

Arrests follow protests in Syria

11:17 am on 3 April 2011

Syrian security forces have arrested dozens of people, after clashes at pro-democracy protests in several cities when at least seven people were reportedly killed.

The BBC reports most of the arrests were in the southern city of Deraa and the suburb of Duma in Damascus.

The government said its forces were not responsible for the deaths, blaming them on "armed groups".

President Bashar al-Assad said earlier this week that demonstrations were part of a foreign "plot", but he has agreed to examine unpopular emergency laws that have in place since 1963.

Activists and rights groups estimate that between 60 - 130 people have died in clashes in the past two weeks.

Government officials say the death toll is closer to 30.