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U.N. Rights Team Arrives In Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 21 (UPI) — U.N. human rights observers were deploying Sunday in Syria to report on how the military was responding to anti-government protests.

The government of President Bashar Assad is facing mounting international pressure after five months of unrest during which independent rights groups say at least 2,000 protesters have been killed, the BBC said.

In Geneva, U.N. spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told CNN the rights investigators would be consulting with international representatives in Syria. She wouldn’t say how many U.N. members were in the group or whether they were scheduled to speak with Assad or other government officials,

Assad, the latest leader in his family’s dynasty of 40 years in power, has repeatedly blamed rogue gangs on the violence and defended the use of the army to respond to the demonstrations. However, he announced Thursday the military had been called off, although the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group alleged 21 people were killed Saturday by soldiers in the city of Homs.

Thursday, the United States imposed economic sanctions on Syria as the European Union announced it was developing a plan for an embargo on Syrian oil, which accounts for 25 percent of the country’s economy, CNN said.

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