23 Apr 2011

Obama condemns 'outrageous' Syria violence

8:54 pm on 23 April 2011

US President Barack Obama has called on the Syrian government to stop "outrageous" violence against demonstrators.

The BBC reports that the president's strongly worded statement followed the worst violence since demonstrations began in March in which activists said nearly 90 anti-government protestors had died.

President Obama said efforts to remove the decades-old state of emergency were not serious and he called on President Bashar al-Assad to change course now.

He said that, instead of listening to his own people, President Assad was blaming outsiders for the protests, while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens.

Big demonstrtions nationwide

On Friday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of cities across Syria in the biggest demonstrations to sweep the country so far, and called for the overthrow of the government of President Assad.

The Local Co-ordination Committees sent Reuters a list with the names of 88 people the group said were killed, in areas stretching from the port city of Latakia to Homs, Hama, Damascus and the southern village of Izra'a.

It was not possible to independently confirm the figures, but if verified would be the highest reported death toll in a single day in more than a month of unrest.

The scores of pro-democracy protesters killed by security forces in Friday's demonstrations will be buried across Syria in funerals that are expected to attract large crowds and fuel further defiance against authoritarian rule.

The protests took place a day after President Assad lifted the country's decades-long state of emergency.

He had signed a decree on Thursday lifting the emergency law that had been imposed by his Baath Party when it took power in a coup 48 years ago.

Other laws still give security forces wide powers and opposition figures have stepped up demands for concessions.