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Mourners in Syria defy al-Assad with calls for freedom

Thousands of mourners and protesters gathered in the Syrian capital of Damascus yesterday for the funerals of those killed in demonstrations against President Bashir al-Assad.

There were repeated chants of "Freedom, freedom" as the crowds gathered shortly before midday prayers.

Mr Assad, who claims that the protests are whipped up by "foreign conspiracies", attempted to allay the anger of the popular opposition to his rule by installing a new government. But the appointment of a former agriculture minister and university academic, Adel Safar, as prime minister is unlikely to satisfy demands for an overhaul of the 48-year-old's regime.

One witness said 10,000 people gathered in Douma, which lies nine miles north-east of the historic centre of Damascus.

At least 15 people were killed in the suburb on Friday. They were particularly angered by Mr Assad's speech last week in which he disappointed expectations that he would repeal long-standing emergency laws.


Meanwhile, in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh remained in office yesterday, despite previous suggestions that he was ready to negotiate an end to three months of protests in which almost 100 people have died. As another two people were shot dead during demonstrations in Yemen's third city, Taiz, he rejected opposition demands that he hand over to his vice-president to allow talks to take place.

And, in Bahrain, authorities have banned the main opposition newspaper. 'Al-Wasat' did not appear yesterday after Bahrain's Information Ministry ordered the paper to shut down. The state-run Bahrain News Agency accused the paper of "unethical" coverage of the mainly Shi'ite uprising against the country's rulers.

Bahrain has tightened internet and media controls under the military rule imposed last month after weeks of protests by groups seeking to break the monarchy's power in this strategic Gulf nation, which is home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent