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Armored Syrian forces storm towns near Turkey border

Sep 14, 2011, 6:49 a.m.

Erdogan, whose country has urged Assad repeatedly to end his crackdown on dissent, stopped short of echoing the United States and European Union in calling for Assad's resignation. The EU has imposed an embargo on Syria's oil sector, possibly cutting off a major source of cash for Assad.

"Nobody can be a friend with or trust an administration that fires bullets at its people and attacks its cities with tanks," Erdogan said. "A leader who kills his own people has lost his legitimacy."

Rights campaigners said military attacks have killed hundreds of civilians in the last few weeks.

An adviser to Assad, on a visit to Moscow this week, said that reports of mass civilian killings have been exaggerated by the media and that the only casualties were 700 soldiers and policemen killed by terrorist groups and a similar number of what she described as mutineers.

Arab League states called in statement from Cairo on Tuesday

for "immediate change" in Syria, an end to the bloodshed and for Assad to implement measures agreed on during a visit by Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to Damascus last week.

Elaraby said he had discussed with Assad a ceasefire, the release of thousands of political detainees and allowing an Arab League fact-finding mission to visit the country. He said Assad had been "responsive" but gave no more details.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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