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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Calls for Strikes in Syria Largely Ignored, Crackdown Continues

VOA News May 18, 2011

Calls for strikes in Syria were largely ignored Wednesday for fear of government retaliation, as Syria's deadly crackdown on the opposition intensified across the country.

Syrian activists called for a nationwide general strike in hopes of putting more pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But schools, shops and other businesses stayed open in the capital, Damascus, and other cities.

Residents in Homs and Damascus told reporters they would not strike and risk harsh government punishment.

Meanwhile, witnesses say government troops continued with house-to-house raids and shelling in the Damascus suburb of Douma, to Nawa in the south and Talkalakh in the west.

Talkalakh has faced a brutal crackdown during the last few days, and activists say security forces there have killed 27 people since last week.

U.S. officials said Wednesday the Obama administration was imposing the first-ever sanctions on Syria's president for human rights abuses.

Earlier Wednesday, Assad acknowledged to state media that his security forces had made some mistakes in the deadly crackdown on protesters. But he said that Syria had "overcome the current crisis.''

Activists say more than 850 civilians have been killed across the country since mid-March when protesters began calling for Mr. Assad's resignation. Authorities have arrested at least 7,000 people as part of the crackdown.

The Obama administration and the European Union had vowed Tuesday to take more steps in the coming days to pressure Syria to halt its crackdown. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton discussed the situation in Washington.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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