Syrian protesters take inspiration from Libya

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BEIRUT (AP) — Inspired by the scenes of euphoria in Libya, Syrian protesters poured into the streets Friday and shouted that President Bashar Assad’s regime will be the next to unravel now that ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

Syrian forces fired on protesters Friday, killing up to 14 people, activists said.

Gadhafi is gone, your turn is coming, Bashar,” protesters shouted on Friday in the central city of Hama, long a hotbed of resistance to the regime.

The Syrian uprising has proved remarkably resilient over the past seven months, but has shown some signs of stalling in recent weeks as the government forges ahead with a bloody crackdown that the U.N. estimates has killed more than 3,000 people.

Although the mass demonstrations in Syria have shaken one of the most authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, the opposition has made no major gains in recent months, it holds no territory and has no clear leadership.

** FILE ** In this March 22, 2005, photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, talks to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi prior the 17th League of Arab States' summit in Algiers. (AP Photo/Nabil)

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** FILE ** In this March 22, 2005, photo, Syrian President Bashar ... more >

Now the armed uprising in Libya that drove Gadhafi from power — albeit with NATO air support — appears to have breathed new life into the Syrian revolt.

“Our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you, Libya!” Syrian protesters chanted Friday.

Others held signs linking Assad’s fate to those of other deposed Arab leaders. Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been driven into exile, and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is in jail and facing charges of complicity in the deaths of more than 800 protesters in his country’s uprising.

“Ben Ali fled, Mubarak is in jail, Gadhafi is killed, Assad … ?” read one banner.

Gadhafi’s death Thursday, after he was dragged from hiding in a drainage pipe, begging for his life, decisively ended the nearly 42-year regime that had turned the oil-rich country into an international pariah and his own personal fiefdom.

In many ways, the Syrian uprising has taken cues from the Libyans recently.

Syria’s opposition formed a national council like the Libyans’ National Transitional Council, hoping they could forge a united front against Assad that Syrians and the international community could rally behind.

And with the successes of armed Libyan revolutionaries present in their minds, many Syrian protesters say they are starting to see the limits of a peaceful movement, particularly when compared to the armed uprising in Libya. Some Syrians are now calling on protesters to take up arms and inviting foreign military action, hoisting signs that say “Where is NATO?” and urging the world to come to Syria’s aid.

For the most part, Syrian opposition leaders have opposed foreign intervention.

There is no central call to arms by the opposition, in part because there is no clear leadership in the movement.

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