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Syrians in Homs feel abandoned by world

Residents are pessimistic about last week's "Friends of Syria" conference and say they see no real pressure for change.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Assad would be held to account for the bloodshed and sharply criticized Russia and China, which have blocked any U.N. measures against Syria.

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But to beleaguered Syrians the speeches seemed remote.

A doctor in the restive town of Zabadani said: "I'm really frightened that after all these efforts we will still end up like Hama in 1982, killed while the world waits and watches."

Assad's father crushed an armed Islamist uprising in Hama 30 years ago, killing many thousands of civilians and razing parts of the city with tanks and artillery in a three-week assault.

"The people of Zabadani resent what happened in Tunis," said the doctor, who asked not to be named. "We need them to arm the revolution. I don't understand what they are waiting for. Do they need to see half the people of Syria finished off first?"

Diplomacy is hamstrung because Russia and China, which did not attend the Tunisia meeting, oppose Security Council action and there is little appetite for military intervention in Syria.

Iran, Syria's closest ally, denied as "sheer lies" charges by some Western officials that Tehran had sent weapons to the Syrian government to help it suppress the uprising.

"Iran's stance on Syria is to support reforms that benefit the Syrian people and oppose foreign intervention in that country's internal affairs," Iran's student news agency ISNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.

Despite the bloodshed, Assad is staging a referendum on Sunday on a new constitution that he says will pave the way for a multi-party parliamentary election within three months.

The opposition has called for a boycott of the vote, deriding Assad's reform pledges and demanding that he step down.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu questioned how the vote could take place in the midst of so much violence.

"On one hand you say you are holding a referendum and on the other you are attacking with tank fire on civilian areas. You still think the people will go to a referendum the next day in the same city?" he asked, at a news conference in Istanbul.

Davutoglu, whose country has turned strongly against its former friend since the Syrian revolt began in March, said Syria should accept an Arab League plan that calls on Assad to quit.

In Baba Amro, activist Husseini said he had "lost faith in everyone but God," but the uprising would go on regardless.

"The shelling is just like it was yesterday. We have had 22 days of this. The women and children are all hiding in basements," he said, his words tumbling out in anger.

"No one would dare try to flee the neighborhood, that is instant death. You'd have to get past snipers and soldiers. Then there is a trench that surrounds our neighborhood and a few others. Then you have to go past more troops."


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