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Syria defies US sanctions, crushes dissent

world Updated: May 20, 2011 12:54 IST

Syrian forces kept up a relentless campaign against the country's two-month uprising, using tanks to shell a besieged border town as President Barack Obama called on Syria's president to lead his country to democracy or "get out of the way."

President Bashar Assad has taken pains to portray confidence and a steely determination in recent days amid signs that his brutal crackdown is terrifying the population into submission.

The regime's crackdown on dissent, which has killed more than 850 people, continued ahead of another round of protests planned for after Friday prayers. Syria's state-run news agency also condemned new U.S. sanctions, saying they "did not and will not affect Syria's independent choices and steadfastness."

The Syrian army shelled the town of Talkalakh in the night from Wednesday to Thursday, sparking gunbattles that killed at least eight people.

The attack killed at least eight people, bringing the death toll to 34 since the military sealed off the border town Saturday and moved in tanks and troops, two human rights activists told The Associated Press.

"We heard shelling throughout the night and can still hear gunfire every now and then," said a Talkalakh resident, who fled across the border to Lebanon as Syrian troops brought in reinforcements.