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Syria Braces For More Protests

Anti-regime protesters march through the streets in Homs on October 30.
Large protests are expected today in Syria after Friday prayers in what is seen as a test of the government's willingness to stick to an agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and start talks with the protesters.

Dozens of civilians, however, were reported killed in the city of Homs on November 3, a day after Syria agreed to the Arab League plan to pull the army out of cities, free political prisoners and hold talks with opposition leaders.

"We have already seen the regime's bloody response to the Arab initiative today in the form of intensified shelling on Homs," said Ahmad Ramadan, spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council.

Syria's seven-month crackdown on protesters demanding reforms and the resignation of President Bashir Assad has left more than 3,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.

The United States said it saw no evidence Syria was taking steps to fulfil the Arab League deal.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said failure to do so would increase the pressure on Damascus.

"It's now incumbent on the Assad regime to prove it, first to the Arab League and secondly, to the larger international community, that it meant what it said when it committed to this deal. The Arab League will obviously draw its own conclusions if today, tomorrow, [and] the next day all of these promises that were made are again broken," Nuland told a press briefing in Washington.

Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby has briefed members of the Syrian National Council on the plan in Cairo.

(Reuters) aw/