Twenty killed in Syria, Assad meets Arab ministers

Strikes hit several provinces in protest against crackdown; thousands join state-organized rally in capital for Assad.

Bashar Assad flag (photo credit: Reuters)
Bashar Assad flag
(photo credit: Reuters)
AMMAN - At least 20 people died in clashes and strikes paralyzed parts of Syria on Wednesday as President Bashar Assad held an inconclusive meeting with Arab ministers seeking to end months of violence.
Nine soldiers were killed by armed rebels and 11 civilians were killed by army gunfire, residents and anti-Assad activists said, as little emerged from a closely watched meeting between Assad and members of an Arab League committee on Syria.
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The delegation leader, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, said the talks had been "cordial and frank" and that the ministers would meet Syrian officials again on Oct. 30 in either Doha or Damascus.
Down the hill from where the envoys met Assad at the "Palace of the People", the authorities organized a rally to show support for the president, who inherited power from his late father 11 years ago.
But with armored assaults on cities and towns failing to end seven months of protests against 41 years of Assad family rule, international pressure on the president continued to grow.
The United Nations says his crackdown has killed 3,000 people, although Syria says hundreds of security personnel have been killed by armed groups trying to foment sectarian conflict.