Bashar al-Assad to Ban Ki-moon: military operations halted

Damascus - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that military and police operations against pro-democracy protesters have stopped, but activists reported more bloodshed overnight.
Local activists said two protesters were shot dead by pro-Assad militiamen Wednesday after nightly Ramadan prayers in the city of Homs, and security forces carried out raids on districts of Hama and the capital Damascus.
The United States was expected to call on Assad to step down, sources in Washington told Reuters. It could come as soon as Thursday, with the European Union expected to follow suit, the sources said.
"Assad is trying to convince Turkey that the attacks have stopped, which could also help appease the United States, thinking he could once again stop Washington from calling on him to step down," a Western diplomat in Damascus said.
"But the operations have not even stopped."
Assad has escalated a military campaign against the uprising since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on 1 August and security forces have killed scores of people.

Although Syrian authorities have announced the army's withdrawal from Hama and Deir al-Zor, residents say military units are still present in those cities and arrests and shootings of protesters have continued. The army is also still deployed in Homs and the coastal city of Latakia.
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