Syria responded yesterday to weeks of unrest, which have seen more than 200 people killed, by scrapping emergency laws in place since 1963.
However, President Bashar al-Assad vowed to show no weakness in the regime's resolve to stay in power, threatening a hard line against demonstrators. Three people were killed in Homs after government forces attempted to stop a protest.
Security forces moved in before dawn after the funerals for protesters killed in demonstrations on Sunday turned into an overnight rally, with protesters pledging to stay until Mr Assad stood down.
The attack on the demonstration, which was reported to be peaceful, came amid conflicting signals from authorities.
On Monday night, they issued a hard line statement condemning opposition to the regime as an "armed mutiny" by Salafists -- followers of the strict, Saudi-style, Sunni Islam -- who had killed policemen, soldiers and civilians.
They said they would "pursue the terrorists wherever they are in order to bring them to justice".
An official statement, made yesterday, suggested that demonstrations, which had been allowed as long as they were peaceful, were now being banned outright.
"The laws in force in Syria will be applied in the interest of the safety of the people and the stability of the country," the statement said, urging citizens "to refrain from any mass rallies, demonstrations or sit-ins under any title".
But that was followed by an announcement that the council of ministers had approved a decree to end the state of emergency imposed in 1963. (© Daily Telegraph, London)