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Monitoring Team In Homs Meets Protesters

A video grab shows what looks to be Syrian soldiers standing over the bodies of men, who were allegedly killed by security forces and militia, in Rastan, Homs province.

The Arab League's monitoring team says it received good cooperation from all sides during its first day in Homs, an epicenter of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The 50-member team met with the governor of Homs as it tries to establish whether Damascus is fulfilling a peace plan brokered by the Arab League that includes withdrawing troops from restive cities.

The Arab League delegation is the first group of some 150 monitors who are scheduled to arrive in Syria by the end of the year.

A video apparently posted on the Internet by Syrian activists shows crowds of protesters in Homs shouting on December 27 to the Arab League monitors, "We want international protection."

The video surfaced as at least 20,000 protesters reportedly gathered in Homs, a day after at least 34 people were killed when the army apparently shelled the city.

Meanwhile, activists said security forces killed at least 15 people on December 27, including at least six in Homs.

Syria has banned foreign journalists and the source or date of the video cannot be independently verified.

The United States has accused Syria of having intensified attacks against its people.

State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said Assad's regime "used the last several days as an opportunity to escalate their attacks...prior to the deployment of these monitors."

compiled from agency reports