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More Than 60 Reported Killed In Syria Violence

Human rights groups say more than 500 people have been killed in the protests

Syrian human rights groups say security forces killed more than 60 people across Syria during demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The Syrian human rights group Sawasiah said it had the names of a total of 62 people killed during protests April 29 in Deraa, Rustun, Latakia, Homs and the town of Qadam, near Damascus. The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights gave a similar death toll.

Syrian authorities said nine members of the security forces were killed by what officials described as "terrorist groups."

The Syrian state-run news agency SANA said security forces had detained 156 people near Deraa.

The bloodshed came as thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country after Friday prayers to demand more freedoms, and to call for Assad step down.

Human rights groups say hundreds of civilians have been killed by security forces since the Syrian unrest broke out six weeks ago.

In other developments, the United States has imposed sanctions against Syria, and the European Union appears ready to impose sanctions, in response to the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Under an order signed by President Barack Obama, the United States is imposing financial restrictions on Syria's intelligence agency and two relatives of Assad for alleged human rights abuses.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which is already subject to sanctions by the United States, were also newly sanctioned by the United States for allegedly helping Syrian authorities with the crackdown.

The White House said in a statement that it "strongly condemns" the Syrian government's continued use of violence and intimidation against the Syrian people.

The statement called on President Assad to "change course now" and heed the calls of Syrians for more democracy.

"The sanctions that were announced today are intended to show the Syrian government that its behavior and actions are going to be held to account, and they must begin taking steps to respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people and respect the rights of their people,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

At a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, EU officials were reported to have agreed preliminarily to impose an arms embargo and a ban on transfers of equipment that can be used for repression -- such as body armor and explosives -- against Assad's regime.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that the measures were aimed at achieving "an immediate change of policy by the Syrian leadership."

Also, the United Nation’s top human rights body has passed a resolution that "unequivocally condemns the use of lethal violence against peaceful protestors by the Syrian authorities” and “urges the Syrian government to immediately put an end to all human rights violations."

Members of the UN Human Rights Council also voted to “urgently dispatch a mission” to the Middle Eastern country to investigate the killing and other alleged crimes.

The vote in the Geneva-based body was 26 countries in favor of the resolution and nine against, including traditional Syria allies Russia and China. Seven abstained and five delegations -- including Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain -- were not present for the vote.

compiled from agency reports

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